Indore: India rode on a strong batting performance to defeat Australia by five wickets in the third One-Day International (ODI) and clinch the five-match series at the Holkar Stadium here on Sunday.
The win also saw India leapfrog South Africa and Australia to the top spot in the world ODI rankings. The hosts were earlier occupying the third position which has now been taken by Australia. The Proteas have dropped one spot to be ranked second.
Chasing a target of 294 runs, India crossed the line in 47.5 overs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
With this win, India skipper Virat Kohli equalled predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s record run of nine ODI wins on the trot.
Dhoni’s winning streak as captain stretched from February 2008 to January 2009. Kohli’s winning run started on July 26 this year.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane gave India a fine start with a partnership of 139 runs.
Rohit scored 71 runs off 62 balls. The Mumbai batsman was in fine form, smashing the ball four times into the stands and six times to the ropes. This was his 33rd half-century in ODI cricket.
Rahane hit nine boundaries while scoring 70 runs off 76 balls.
Later, Hardik Pandya produced a power-packed knock lower down the order to carry the hosts to the cusp of victory.
The Baroda all-rounder top scored for the hosts with 78 runs off 72 deliveries, hitting five boundaries and four sixes along the way.
Pacer Pat Cummins was the most successful among the Australian bowlers with figures of 2/54. Fellow pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar took a wicket each.
India were off to a steady start with Rohit and Rahane maintaining a healthy run rate. The duo took their time to get going with just eight runs on the board after the third over before Rahane stepped out to smash Coulter-Nile for a boundary to the cover fence.
Rohit then launched himself into the Australian bowling, smashing the ball all around the park. He brought up his half-century in style, smashing Agar for a six over long-on.
This was his fastest half-century in the 50-over format, surpassing the 43-ball fifty against Sri Lanka in Pallekele last month.
The Australians heaved a sigh of relief when Rohit fell to a mistimed shot off Coulter-Nile while attempting another big hit. The ball took the top edge of the bat with Hilton Cartwright pulling off the catch at deep mid-wicket.
The visitors had more reasons to celebrate a couple of overs later when Cummins trapped Rahane leg before.
Kohli and Kedar Jadhav added 56 runs between them before both departed in consecutive overs.
However, Pandya brutally extinguished any glimmer of hope the visitors entertained at that point.
He put together a stand of 78 runs off 63 deliveries before falling just 10 runs short of victory.
Earlier, opening batsman Aaron Finch’s 124 powered Australia to 293/six in their 50 overs after visiting skipper Steve Smith won the toss and elected to bat first.
Finch, who registered his eighth ODI century, shared a 154-run second-wicket partnership with skipper Steve Smith (63 off 71 balls) as Australia, who have already lost the first two ODIs in the five-match series, put up a challenging target for the hosts.
The Indian bowlers struggled for the better part of the innings but they fought back towards late to not allow Australia get a big score.
Finch, who missed the first two ODIs due to a calf injury, plundered 12 fours and four sixes.
The 30-year-old and David Warner (42 off 44 balls) provided a near-perfect start for the visitors. They put up 70 runs when Warner was bowled by medium pacer Hardik Pandya in the third ball of the 14th over.
Warner struggled early while Finch looked fluent from the onset. Finch’s rhythm helped Warner as the left-hander took some time to get it going.
Warner too looked threatening but Pandya ended his stay — which brought Smith to the crease. Both Smith and Finch displayed calculative batting as they didn’t restrain themselves from playing big shots. Mixing ones and twos with boundaries, Smith-Finch put India under pressure.
Finch went on the back-foot and used the long handle to good effect against the spin pair of left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Kuldeep and Chahal had tormented the visitors in the first two ODIs but Smith and Finch showed how to tackle the spinners in these conditions.
Finch was at his belligerent best and got to the personal three-figure mark in 110 deliveries. The partnership threatened to take Australia past the 320-run mark at one stage.
But at the personal score of 124 in as many deliveries, he offered a straight catch to Jadhav at deep midwicket off Kuldeep in the fifth delivery of the 38th over, with the scoreboard at 224/2.
Four overs later, Smith danced down the track to hit Kuldeep to the hands of Jasprit Bumrah in the 42nd over — much to the relief of the Indian camp.
Then, India pulled things under control and picked wickets at regular intervals to peg back the visitors.
Chahal dismissed Glenn Maxwell (5) after the right-handed batsman advanced outside the crease only to miss the wide ball before being stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Later, pacer Bumrah removed Travis Head (4) and Peter Handscomb (3) to ensure that Australia struggled in scoring quick runs.
All-rounder Marcus Stoinis (27 not out) and Ashton Agar (9 not out) took Australia to 293/6.