Australia clinch series with a narrow win at the MCG
Despite Kohli's heroics, India fall short again
Australia kept up the trend with yet another clinical chase and sealed the series, courtesy a tense 3-wicket victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Despite putting on their best show on the tour so far, the MS Dhoni-led Indian side failed to outsmart the power-packed Australian batting line-up.
The Indian bowlers started poorly by pitching the ball fuller than required. To add to the visitor’s woes, Gurkeerat Singh dropped a comfortable catch off Aaron Finch.
But, Finch could not make use of the let-off and perished while trying to drive away from his body. Umesh Yadav’s extra pace proved to be the difference. When Ravindra Jadeja turned the match around with his timely strikes, the rejuvenated Indians seemed to turn the tide.
The left-arm spinner snapped up Smith and Bailey in quick succession with a rousing spell. There was a semblance of turn on offer and Jadeja was back in business. Marsh and Wade were in the pavilion too as the Indian fielders rose to the occasion.
The match was not without its fair share of controversy. Glenn Maxwell nicked Barinder Sran behind. Despite a clear noise, the umpire did not raise his finger as the match hung on a knife edge.
Maxwell and Faulkner proceeded to take Australia home with an effective partnership to put an end to India’s hopes of coming back into the series. Maxwell was adjudged the Man of the Match for his efforts.
Earlier, Steve Smith won the toss on a warm morning and had no hesitation in opting to bowl again. The pitch appeared to be as flat as that of the preceding ones in Brisbane and Perth. However, things started to slow down once the Australian bowlers decided to take the pace off the ball.
After posting humongous scores in the first couple of matches, Rohit Sharma fell early to get the hosts off to the perfect start. But, Dhawan and Kohli joined hands and put on a hundred-run partnership for the second wicket.
Under immense pressure, Dhawan began cautiously as he looked to play close to his body. Despite shrugging off his poor run with the bat, the left-hander was not too convincing either.
When he was on the charge, the Delhi-batsman gifted his wicket away by shuffling across the stumps. However, Kohli continued his impressive form as he motored along steadily. He was ably supported by Rahane who is starting to slot admirably into the middle-order.
Piercing the gaps with precision, Kohli took full advantage of the vast outfield and sustained the pressure on the Aussie fielders. He finally reached his maiden ODI century against Australia in Australia.
As the death-overs loomed, both batsmen were forced to switch gears. While trying to clear the long-on boundary, Rahane departed. Kohli followed suit after lobbing a simple catch to extra cover.
MS Dhoni showed signs of returning to his old self by bludgeoning a 9-ball 23 as the Indians finished at 295. But on an abrasive and sluggish surface, the Indian bowlers once again failed to defend a substantial total.
Dhoni’s decision to take Jadeja off the attack after the latter had taken 2 quick wickets was bereft of any logic. And the team selection was also under the scanner as the Indian skipper failed to read the pitch and went in without his premier spinner in Ashwin.
The remaining 2 matches are scheduled to be held at Canberra and Sydney. If the hosts go on to win the 4th ODI, Australia will eclipse the mighty West Indian team of the past and set a record for the most consecutive wins at home.
Brief Scores: India 295/6 (Kohli 117, Dhawan 68, Hastings 4-58); Australia 296/7 (Maxwell 96, Marsh 62, Jadeja 2-49)
Australia won by 3 wickets with 7 balls to spare