Australia completed a hat-trick of successful chases, all three by creating a new record batting second at the three respective venues at Perth, Brisbane, and now in Melbourne. The hosts’ latest victory meant they claimed the series 3-0 with two matches in hand. The script of the game was painfully similar for India. Rohit Sharma fell early this time, but Virat Kohli guided India to a competitive 295 with a breezy hundred, with aid from contrasting half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane. Australia were make to work harder this time, but Glenn Maxwell’s 96 was enough to see them home.
As Australia stumbled to 215 for 6 in the 19th over, it seemed India might be in with a chance of running the hosts close. But, Maxwell ensured that wasn’t to be the case. They needed 65 from the last 10 overs, but with the tail to follow, India were only one wicket away from opening the match up. But, Maxwell, in the company of James Faulkner kept Australia ahead throughout, during the course of their partnership. Maxwell slapped eight fours and three sixes during his knock, including a searing slap for six over extra cover off Barinder Sran.
Maxwell had got himself to 96 with one run needed. Unfortunately, he could not get to his hundred as he hit Umesh Yadav straight up in the air. Faulkner finished off the game with an unbeaten 21 from 25, and with it, Australia clinched the series, and broke India’s resolve. Maxwell and Faulker added 80 for the seventh wicket. There were good partnerships for Australia throughout, as a result of which they got home without a hundred partnership. Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh started with 48 while Marsh and Smith added 64 for the second.
India chose the option of batting in the first two games. This time, they were asked to take strike, but MS Dhoni surprisingly said at the toss that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Rohit Sharma failed for the first time in the series as he was out caught behind off Kane Richardson. Shikhar Dhawan continued to struggle, but at least he kept his wicket in-tact at his home ground. It was Kohli who ensured India got themselves into a position to post something close to 300. The duo added 119 for the second wicket.
Dhawan had made his way to 68 from 90 balls, but knew he needed to accelerate and, after scooping John Hastings over the keeper, he fell next ball trying to repeat the stroke. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane added 109 for the third wicket, and also accelerated the innings. Kohli brought up his century from 105 balls, his maiden ODI ton against Australia in Australia. Rahane made a quick 50 from 55 when he was caught in the deep by the Smith-Maxwell combo, with the skipper throwing the ball back to Maxwell as he went over the ropes. MS Dhoni made a quick 23 from 9 as India ended on 295. As in the first two games though, it wasn’t enough.
--By A Cricket Correspondent