Melbourne, Jan 17: India's bowlers today produced yet another sloppy performance to allow Australia clinch the 5-match ODI series by taking an unassailable 3-0 lead as they cruised to a 3-wicket victory in the third match despite a heroic century by Virat Kohli.
Batting first, India scored a decent 295 for six in 50 overs with Virat Kohli scoring a run-a-ball 117 en route to his 24th ODI century. In reply, Australia never looked in trouble as they knocked off the required runs with 1.1 overs still remaining. (Why did Dhoni drop 'world's best' Ashwin?)
Glenn Maxwell put paid to India's hopes of an elusive win with a superlative 96 off 83 balls that had 8 fours and 3 sixes as the bowlers once again undid the valiant effort from the batting unit. The fielding was also not upto the mark at times. (Kohli breaks De Villiers' record)
Umesh Yadav (2/68 in 9.5 overs), Barinder Sran (0/63 in 8 overs) and Ishant Sharma (2/53 in 10 overs) found it difficult to contain the batsman. (Kohli's promise to Akram)
Gurkeerat drops Finch in 6th over
Aaron Finch (21 runs, 23 balls, 3 fours) and Shaun Marsh (62 runs, 76 balls, 6 fours) started off at almost six runs per over and the rate didn't come down even with early bowling changes.
Debutant Gurkeerat Singh Mann dropped Finch in the 6th over, with the batsman on 20. But it had yielded a wicket, with Finch caught behind in the 8th over off Ishant. Steve Smith (41 runs, 45 balls, 5 fours) then came to the crease and started off without feeling any pressure.
He added 64 runs with Marsh, who scored a second consecutive half-century playing in place of David Warner, and the 100-mark coming up breezily in the 16th over. Australia were keeping abreast of the run-rate, and Smith was into his forties in the blink of an eye.
Against the run of play then, in the 19th over, Ravindra Jadeja (2-49) got one to spin away from him, and he edged it to slip with Ajinkya Rahane happily accepting the catch. His dismissal brought India back into the game with George Bailey (23) stumped in the 27th over.
Dhoni showed another quick thinking and brilliant glove-work moment when he ran out Mitchell Marsh (17) off an Umesh Yadav (2-68) throw in the 36th over. (Special 300 for Dhoni)
Hosts reduced to 215/6
In between, Shaun Marsh was out caught pulling off Ishant in the 30th over. And when Matthew Wade (6) holed out against the same bowler in the 39th over, Australia were reduced to 215/6.
But Maxwell then played a superb hand, with an uncharacteristic watchful innings to score his 13th ODI fifty. In doing so, he put on 80 runs off just 63 balls for the 7th wicket with James Faulkner (21) and over by over, the hosts edged home to a win.
Maxwell had reached his half-century in the 40th over, run-a-ball and there was an element of doubt about a faint edge on the snickometer in that same over.
But then he took 15 runs off the 43rd over by Yadav changing the momentum of the game. Thereafter, the equation came down to a very manageable run-a-ball, and the duo took Australia home - and to the series win - without much fuss.
Earlier, Kohli's hundred guided India to 295/6 in 50 overs. He put on 119 runs with Shikhar Dhawan (68 runs, 91 balls, 9 fours) and another 109 runs with Ajinkya Rahane (50 runs, 55 balls, 4 fours, 1 six), but the Men in Blue had to settle for a below-par score.
The visitors sprung a couple of surprises in the afternoon when they handed debuts to both Gurkeerat Mann and Rishi Dhawan.
R Ashwin and Manish Pandey were excluded from the playing eleven as skipper MS Dhoni went in with six bowlers. Australia won the toss and elected to field, bringing back Mitchell Marsh to the line-up and leaving out Joel Paris.
Kohli scores 24th ton in ODIs
Rohit Sharma (6) and Shikhar Dhawan took first strike then, but the former couldn't replicate his centuries from the first two matches and was out caught behind off Kane Richardson (1-48) in the fifth over.
Kohli then walked to the crease, and looked fluent from the very beginning. It was important in the context of the innings as Dhawan was scratching around for his runs. While they didn't lose any more wickets, India could only reach 62/1 in the first 15 overs.
That is when the duo started pulling things back, and upped the ante. They unleashed a flurry of boundaries as the run-rate moved to five an over, and the two batsmen celebrated their fifties in the 23rd over.
Kohli got to his fifty in 51 deliveries, while Dhawan brought up his 16th ODI half-century off 76 balls. India's 100-mark came up in the 22nd over, while they also brought up their 100-partnership off 120 balls.
India looked to carry on this momentum but Dhawan started taking more risks than necessary in order to compensate for his many dot balls.
As a result, he was bowled by John Hastings (4-58) against the run of play, walking across his stumps in the 27th over. It was the highest second-wicket partnership for India against Australia at the MCG, beating the previous best of 101 between Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in January 1981.
Rahane then came to the crease, and to his credit, he did not let the momentum dip. Kohli took a majority of the strike initially as his new partner rotated well.
15th ODI fifty for Rahane
In doing so they brought up their 50-partnership off only 55 balls and then further progressed to a 100-run stand off only 105 balls.
In the 40th over, India were placed at 207/2 while Rahane got to his 15th ODI half-century - and a consecutive one after Brisbane - off 54 balls.
Kohli reached his 24th ODI hundred off 105 balls in the 43rd over, and in doing so became the quickest batsman to breach the 7,000-ODI runs marker.
The two batsmen then cut loose, and Kohli especially was looking to play some big shots when their partnership was broken in the 45th over. Rahane was caught in the deep off Hastings, with Maxwell (0-46) and Steve Smith juggling the catch.
It put brakes on the Indian scoring once again, as Kohli too was out caught, a simple one to George Bailey off cover. Hastings was the bowler once more, and he struck again to remove Dhoni (23), caught in the deep in a bid to accelerate the scoring.
Mann (8) was bowled by James Faulkner (1-63) while Ravindra Jadeja (6 not out) and Rishi Dhawan (3 not out) were the unbeaten batsmen. Mitchell Marsh (0-12) and Scott Boland (0-63) were the other bowlers deployed.