MS Dhoni was named the Man of the Series for his three fifties and his tally of 193 runs. (Image credit: ICC Twitter)
In Sydney, MS Dhoni was panned for his slow batting. In Adelaide, he guided the Indian cricket team over the finish line. In the do-or-die clash in Melbourne, Dhoni produced another masterclass of a fifty and he was aided by Kedar Jadhav’s aggressive fifty as India beat Australia in Melbourne by seven wickets on Friday to win the three-match series 2-1 to create history. It was India’s first bilateral ODI series win Down Under and they joined South Africa as the other team to win a series in all formats in Australia. In addition to Dhoni and Jadhav’s fifties, Yuzvendra Chahal spun a web to take 6/42, the best figures by a spinner in Australia as Virat Kohli’s side ended their historic tour on the ultimate high.
With Dhoni producing yet another sublime innings, the debate over whether he is a liability for the 2019 World Cup will firmly take a back seat. However, the innings was given tremendous impetus when India were in a shaky position chasing 231. Rohit Sharma was undone by a Peter Siddle delivery which straightened outside off and the right-hander got a leading edge to Shaun Marsh at first slip. Shikhar Dhawan struggled for timing and he drove a full ball from Marcus Stoinis but the bowler showed superb reflexes to catch the left-hander off his own bowling. Dhoni joined Virat Kohli out in the middle and he was given a life immediately as Glenn Maxwell at point dropped a simple catch off him. The force was with Dhoni and he decided to capitalise.
Both batsmen steadied the ship and India made smooth progress on an MCG wicket which was becoming difficult for stroke making. Both batsmen pierced the gaps brilliantly and ran the twos and threes hard. Kohli and Dhoni both survived a run-out attempt but they held their nerve. The former India skipper blasted two boundaries off Stoinis and Siddle while Kohli neared a fifty. However, on 46, Kohli edged a full ball to Alex Carey off Jhye Richardson, falling to the bowler for the third time in the series.
Dhoni Jadhav show
The former India skipper was given good support by Kedar Jadhav and he notched up his third consecutive fifty in the series, the first time he had achieved the feat since the New Zealand series of 2014. With Dhoni being the steadying factor, Jadhav also grew in confidence and he consistently found the gaps to ensure India did not fall behind in the required rate. The 46th over bowled by Siddle changed the complexion of the game.
Siddle bowled two wides and Jadhav made room to smash a full ball over mid off for a boundary. In the 48th over, Dhoni got yet another life when Aaron Finch dropped him at mid-off and Jadhav survived a run-out chance. With both Dhoni and Jadhav finding the boundary and 13 runs coming off the over, the deal was done and Jadhav sealed the match with a lofted drive to the long on fence to finish the tour on a high. The efforts of Dhoni and Jadhav in chasing this total, though, was set up by Yuzvendra Chahal, who ripped through the top-order.
Chahal spins a web
India chose to bowl first and Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued to strike early with the wickets of Alex Carey and Aaron Finch. Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh shared a 73-run stand for the third wicket and it seemed Australia would post a good total. This was the time Chahal decided to change the course of the match.
Chahal got a legbreak to spin back in as Marsh looked to work the ball to the leg side but he missed and MS Dhoni effected a quick stumping to break the stand. Immediately, Chahal accounted for Khawaja as the left-hander got a leading edge to a delivery that straightened and he could only pop a catch back to the bowler. With Australia losing their clutch players, India went for the kill. Stoinis edged a sharp legbreak that pitched on leg stump and it took a great catch from Rohit Sharma at slip. After his first spell which yielded 6-0-31-3, Chahal came back for his second spell to wrap up the tail in style.
The young legspinner got Jhye Richardson (16) as the batsman edged a flighted delivery to mid wicket where Kedar Jadhav took the catch. He got his five-wicket haul when he trapped Peter Handscomb, who scored his third fifty in front with a quicker delivery. The formalites were complete when Adam Zampa miscued the lofted shot to be caught at long on by Vijay Shankar.
At the other end, Handsomb waged a lone battle but with no support, Australia did not bat out their full fifty overs. Chahal finished with a haul of 10-0-42-6 which was his best figures and it was the best-ever by a spinner in Australia and it was the second five-wicket haul by an Indian spinner in ODIs in Australia, after Ravi Shastri had taken 5/15 in Perth in 1991. The exploits of Chahal, Dhoni and Jadhav have given India tremendous momentum as they now head for further overseas conquests, this time in New Zealand.