A rearguard partnership between Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja followed by a combined bowling effort helped India beat Australia by 13 runs for a consolation win in the third and final ODI against Australia in Canberra on Wednesday.
India set Australia a target of 303 with Pandya smashing 92* off 76 and Jadeja making 66* off 50. Australia were bowled out for 289, with Aaron Finch (75) and Glenn Maxwell (59) making half-centuries. Shardul Thakur bagged three wickets while Jasprit Bumrah and T Natarajan got two each.
Australia's chase started with an early wicket, something that hasn't happened in recent times for India. Marnus Labuschagne was bowled by debutant T Natarajan for just 7. Aaron Finch too should have fallen cheaply but for a dropped catch by Shikhar Dhawan off Jasprit Bumrah.
Finch received another slice of luck the very next over when Hardik Pandya couldn't hit direct with the batsman miles out of his crease. He received more and more luck as plenty of mishits went to areas where there were no fielders. Bumrah too couldn't hold on to a tough return chance by the Australian captain.
India had their share of luck too, when Steve Smith was caught behind down leg side off Shardul Thakur for only 7 after scoring two centuries in the first two matches.
Moises Henriques rebuilt for a while before Thakur got his second wicket, the batsman pulling to mid wicket. However, this wasn't before he added 61 for the third wicket with Finch.
Soon after Henriques, Finch fell caught in the deep off Ravindra Jadeja for 75. Debutant Cameroon Green chipped in with 21 off 27, but his dismissal got Glenn Maxwell in.
Maxwell, in terrific form after a poor IPL, counter-attacked and ensured India didn't run away with momentum. With Alex Carey knocking it around, the duo seemed set to take Australia through before Carey was run out.
At 57 off 42 with four wickets in hand, the match was in the balance but Maxwell took the attack to Natarajan in an 18-run over and raced past his half century. However, Bumrah cleaned him up with a full one next over to keep India in the game. Thakur and Natarajan followed it up with the wickets of Sean Abbott and Ashton Agar
conceding only 8 runs in the 47th and 48th over combined. Australia eventually needed 15 in the last over off Bumrah, which was too much for the last wicket pair.
Earlier, Hardik Pandya played a trademark swashbuckling innings under pressure in the company of Ravindra Jadeja as a late flourish propelled India to 302 for 5. Pandya hit an unbeaten 92 off 76 balls and with Jadeja (66 not out off 50 balls), helped India make a stunning recovery after the team struggled for runs for most part of the innings. Skipper Virat Kohli's fighting half century was another knock of significance in the visiting team's effort. Coming together in the 32nd over, Pandya and Jadeja stitched 150 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket to change the complexion of the game, which would make no difference to the final score-line as Australia have already sealed it with back-to-back wins in Sydney.
It looked like India would barely reach 250 but Pandya and Jadeja made it a different story. The duo took some time to settle down before opening the floodgates of boundaries. They scored 53 runs from the 46th to 48th over. In all, 76 runs came from the last five overs.
Pandya's innings had seven fours and one six while Jadeja was at his best, hitting five boundaries and three sixes. Except for Kohli, Pandya and Jadeja, other batsmen struggled on a flat track after India opted to bat.
Senior campaigners like Shikhar Dhawan (16) and KL Rahul (5) perished due to poor shot selection while Shreyas Iyer could contribute only 19 runs at the Manuka Oval, which is known for producing big scores.
Kohli, who became the fastest cricketer to score 12000 ODI runs, showed the gumption to take the fight to the opposition camp with a 78-ball 63 which included five hits to the fence.
(With PTI inputs)