The result spared the blushes of Steve Smith, who on a night featuring a comedy of errors in the field had put Kohli down on nine. Smith’s movements in the deep indicated he had lost the ball in the floodlights as Kohli hoisted a Glenn Maxwell off break to the outfield, but it was a glaring miss.
In a spectacular contrast, Smith also demonstrated his remarkable athleticism to save four Kohli runs later on, leaping above the rope to tip a ball back into play. In a momentary worry for an Australian Test side already facing a several pre-series headaches, he limped along the boundary briefly afterwards but he continued on for the rest of the match.
Australia had posted 5-186 after Matthew Wade (80 from 53 balls) and Maxwell (54 from 36) reaped the benefits of India’s own blundering performance in the field that included a costly Decision Review System time-out, a wicket voided by a no-ball and two clumsy botched catches.
Wade, who retained responsibility for leading from the front despite relinquishing the captaincy to the returning Aaron Finch, had brought up his second straight half-century in the 11th over of Australia’s innings. But there was drama a moment later as seamer T Natarajan zeroed a ball into his pads and set off an enthusiastic India appeal.
Umpire Rod Tucker gave Wade not out and India, with Kohli stationed in the deep, did not immediately call for a review, only doing when the incident was beamed up on the SCG big screen. By then, however, third umpire Paul Wilson ruled that the 15 seconds they had to contest the decision had elapsed.
It was not the tourists’ last gaffe.
While Wade made the most of his lucky break, so did Maxwell, who on 19 had walked halfway off the ground after he tried to heave spinner Yuzvendra Chahal over midwicket but only managed a top edge that Rahul ran around and gloved.
When the replay showed Chahal had overstepped, Maxwell turned and hightailed it back to the middle.
Having subsequently slugged his way to 38, the Australia No.4 was then given another life when Deepak Chahar spilled a reasonably straightforward catch running in from the rope.
After Wade was finally stopped by Shardul Thakur, Maxwell was put down again at the end of the penultimate
over as Chahal, the man of the match as a concussion substitute in the first T20 in Canberra last Friday, continued having a shocker.
It was left to the excellent Natarajan, who completed a fine debut series, to see off Maxwell next ball but the damage had been done.
Let off the hook by Smith, Kohli had other ideas but he was pulled up in the penultimate over by Andrew Tye as, on an evening of spills, Daniel Sams held onto one.
Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.