Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s heroics with the ball were complemented well by former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s third consecutive half-century as he anchored India’s run chase to beat Australia by 7 wickets in the third ODI, and clinch their first ever bilateral series win here.
With the 2-1 One-Day International (ODI) series win, India have completed their tour Down Under without losing a series.
The Kohli-led men in blue had earlier registered a historic 2-1 win in the four-Test series while drawing the preceding three-match T20I rubber 1-1.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Friday, Australia paid the price for dropping the dangerous Dhoni on nought, as the veteran stumper, who has recently been at the receiving end of critics, came up with another defiant and calm half-century to guide the Indians home in style.
Promoted to No.4, Dhoni first raised a strong 54-run third wicket stand with skipper Virat Kohli (46) and thereafter took India home with an unbeaten 121-run stand with Kedar Jadhav (61 not out).
Dhoni’s unbeaten knock of 87 came off 114 balls and was studded with six hits to the fence.
After the departure of the in-form opening duo of Rohit Sharma (9) and Shikhar Dhawan (23) with the Indian scoreboard ticking 59/2, Kohli and Dhoni laid the foundation for the chase.
Fresh from a century in the second ODI at Adelaide, Kohli looked set for another trademark chase but after facing 62 balls and striking three fours, the India captain was caught behind off Jhye Richardson.
With India still needing 118 runs for a win, Dhoni carried on in the company of new man Jadhav and the highlight of their fourth wicket partnership was stealing the odd singles and converting them into twos.
The 37-year-old Dhoni, who was dropped first ball by Glenn Maxwell at backward point, made the most of the life as he battled cramps to eventually get to a hat-trick of half-centuries this series.
With the tourists needing 66 off the last 10 overs, Dhoni and Jadhav, who also got to a hardworking half-century, ensured there were no hiccups and went about their business as usual to eventually guide the team home.
Interestingly, Dhoni also completed 1000 ODI runs in Australia on Friday.
Earlier, Australia’s vulnerability to quality leg-spin was exposed by Chahal, who returned with his second overseas fifer to help India restrict the hosts for a meagre 230.
Playing his first match of the series, Chahal wreaked havoc in the Australian line-up, returning a career-best 6/42 as the home batsmen seemed to have no clue about playing the leggie.
After pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar got rid of the openers — Aaron Finch (14) and Alex Carey (5) — and reduced the hosts to 27/2, Chahal ripped through the middle order, taking the crucial wickets of the in-form Shaun Marsh (39) and Usman Khawaja (34) in his very first over.
The leggie then returned to remove all-rounder Marcus Stoinis (10) before ending a stiff 45-run seventh wicket stand between top-scorer Peter Handscomb (58) and Jhye Richardson (16).
His sixth victim was his opposite number in the Aussie camp Adam Zampa (3) even as Australia’s innings ended by the 49th over.
Australia 230 (Peter Handscomb 58, Shaun Marsh 39, Usman Khawaja 34; Yuzvendra Chahal 6/42, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2/28) lose to India (Mahendra Singh Dhoni 87 not out, Kedar Jadhav 61 not out, Virat Kohli 46; Jhye Richardson 1/27) by 7 wickets.