India finished their tour Down Under on a high with the team registering their maiden bilateral ODI series win in Australia. Needing 231 runs to win, India chased down the target with four balls to spare and won the third and final ODI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by seven wickets.
For the second straight match, Dhoni played a pivotal role in the chase and scored a fifty for the third consecutive match. At the end of the match, the former Indian skipper was unbeaten on 87 runs from 114 balls. He was supported by Kedar Jadhav, who remained unbeaten on 61 runs from 57 balls. Earlier, Yuzvendra Chahal finished with 6/42 matching the best bowling figures for an Indian in an ODI in Australia. The record was held by Ajit Agarkar. Dhoni won the Man of the series award, while Chahal was awarded the Man of the Match.
With the series win, India finished the Australia tour unbeaten in all the series played. India levelled the T20I series 1-1, won the Test series 2-1 and the ODI series 2-1. In fact, India became the first country to return from Australia without losing a single series.
India’s chase did not go the way they would have liked, with Rohit Sharma departing for just 9 runs. Peter Siddle picking up the opener’s wicket to put India under pressure at 15/1. Shikhar Dhawan started brightly, but wasn’t able to make it count, playing a shot back down across Marcus Stoinis, who showed some quick reflexes to catch it behind him.
MS Dhoni was introduced higher up the order with the surface slowing down, and runs getting harder to come by. With Virat Kohli, the former Indian captain enjoyed multiple reprieves to make Australia pay in the end. Peter Handscomb dropped Kohli (on 10) at first slip off Billy Stanlake in the 12th over. In another poor display of fielding, Kohli was stranded at the non-striker’s end after a bit of confusion in stealing a run – a direct hit would have ended the Indian captain’s innings.
The current and former skippers put together 54 runs off 82 balls for the third wicket, but Kohli’s was then caught behind off Jhye Richardson.
This brought Kedar Jadhav into the middle, who brought plenty of life into the run chase by running hard and chipping in with seven boundaries – the most by an Indian batsman in the innings. Dhoni and Jadhav’s 124-run stand proved to be enough for India in the end. Jadhav soothed Indian nerves as he scored his fourth ODI half-century off 52 balls, as the equation came down to 14 needed off 12. The duo struck two fours in the penultimate over to finish the match.
With MS Dhoni in the twilight of his career, his role is now to take the team across the finishing line, or at least close enough to it. Despite questions over his ability to finish matches at the start of the ODI series, he proved that he’s not finished yet. The former Indian captain performed his role to perfection with some quick running between the wickets, in what could well be his last match on Australian soil.
For Australia, Handscomb (58) scored a battling half-century and took his team to a respectable total despite being 161/6 at one point. This was after India won the toss and opted to field on a rainy day in Melbourne. The start was delayed due to rain but it resumed soon after a short downpour, and no overs were lost.
Chahal, who replaced Mohammed Siraj, made life difficult for the Australian batsmen with deceptive flight and by mixing up the pace of his deliveries. It resulted in multiple Aussie batsmen being unable to read the line of the delivery. Usman Khawaja’s top-edge back to the leggie was one of the best examples of this.
Under cloudy conditions, Australia started poorly once again with Alex Carey (5) falling cheaply, caught at second slip off Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/28). Kumar also accounted for Aaron Finch’s wicket for the third match running, trapping the right hander leg before. It ensured Australia started slowly with the scoreboard reading 30/2 after 10 overs.
Shaun Marsh (39) and Khawaja (34) settled things down for Australia thereafter to put together 73 runs from 85 balls for the third wicket to steer Australia to 100 runs by the 24th over. At this stage, Chahal was introduced and changed the game.
First, Marsh was stumped attempting to play a wide delivery down leg side, with MS Dhoni quickly removing the bails. Three balls later, Khawaja top-edged a simple return catch to Chahal to reduce Australia to 101/4.
Australia lost four wickets for 61 runs in 13.4 overs during this passage of play, but Handscomb rescued them with his third ODI half-century that came off 57 balls.
Indian bowlers remained inexpensive with debutant Vijay Shankar going for 23 runs in his six overs. Kedar Jadhav, too, remained perfect with his line and length for the most part, conceding just 35 runs from his six overs.
BRIEF SCORES: Australia 230 (Peter Handscomb 58, Shaun Marsh 39; Yuzvendra Chahal 6/42) lose to India: 234/3 (MS Dhoni 87*, Kedar Jadhav 61*, Virat Kohli 46) by 7 wickets.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines