Regardless of the result in Melbourne, India’s tour of Australia would have been triumph. But it was given the perfect ending as Yuzvendra Chahal’s career-best 6 for 42, the joint best ODI figures in Australia, set up a seven-wicket victory to take the series. Chahal’s haul left a modest target but a slow pitch made scoring tricky as MS Dhoni, whose role has dominated the narrative of the series, scored his third half-century in three innings – while being given three lives – and the recalled Kedar Jadhav produced an excellent hand.
It’s the depth of players available that marks out the best teams and the success of Chahal and Jadhav, playing their first matches of the series in place of the rested Kuldeep Yadav and Ambati Rayudu, slotted in seamlessly. Chahal’s second ball of the match began Australia’s downfall when he had the in-form Shaun Marsh stumped, and he claimed three wickets in each of his two spells, surpassing his previous best of 5 for 22 against South Africa at Centurion.
Australia had their chances as they defended 230 – plenty of them – as they pushed India to the final over. Virat Kohli was dropped on 10 by Peter Handscomb, above his head at first slip off Billy Stanlake; Dhoni was spilled first ball at point by the usually safe Glenn Maxwell; Kohli could have been run out on 32 and the Australians failed to spot an edge from Dhoni when he had 34. Though the asking rate climbed following Kohli’s eventual dismissal, and nudged nine when Dhoni patted back an over from Adam Zampa, India always had wickets in hand. Yet there could have been a twist had Aaron Finch held Dhoni at mid-off when 27 were needed off 18 balls.
The match had started like the other two: with a superb opening spell from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He got one to bounce outside off to take Alex Carey’s edge to second slip, where Kohli made good ground to claim the catch, and then there was what felt like the inevitable dismissal of Finch.
In the opening over of the match, which was interrupted after two balls by a shower, Finch had already had two nervous moments, firstly padding up to one with the bounce saving him and then edging short of slip. The ball before Bhuvneshwar claimed him for the third time in the series there was a curious moment, when he attempted to deliver from behind the umpire – Michael Gough called dead ball much to Bhuvneshwar’s annoyance – but with the next delivery he pinned Finch lbw.
After a stand of 73 between Marsh and Usman Khawaja, Australia were derailed by the introduction of Chahal, his second delivery – mightily close to being a no-ball – manufacturing a stumping to remove the in-form Marsh when he charged at what became a wide. Three balls later he had another when Khawaja sent a leading edge back to the bowler as he attempted to turn a leg-break to the on side.
Chahal’s third was one for the highlights reel when a perfectly pitched legspinner drifted and turned to find Marcus Stoinis’ outside edge with Rohit Sharma taking a terrific catch at slip.
Maxwell briefly counterattacked, slotting away five boundaries as he moved along at more than a run-a-ball, before being undone by a short delivery from Mohammed Shami which resulted in a top edge to long leg where Bhuvneshwar took a brilliant catch running in. It left Maxwell with 85 runs off 61 balls in the series and a debate far from answered.