Melbourne: India recorded their first ever bilateral series triumph on Australian soil as they clinched the Twenty20 rubber by taking an unassailable 2-0 lead with a comprehensive 27-run victory in the second match, riding on an all-round show here on Friday.
Put in to bat, India relied on brilliant innings by Rohit Sharma (60) and Virat Kohli (59), along with a useful 42 by opener Shikhar Dhawan, to post a formidable 184/3.
Defending the target, the Indian bowlers put up a fine collective effort to rip through Australia’s middle order and restrict the hosts to 157/8 in 20 overs.
The Indians thus took a 2-0 lead in the three-match series, which ends on Sunday in Sydney.
This was India’s first ever bilateral series win Down Under. The Indians had earlier won a tri-series in 2007-08 and the Benson and Hedges World Championship in 1985.
The triumph is a remarkable turnaround for the Indians, who suffered a humiliating 1-4 debacle in the preceding ODI series.
In Friday’s match as well, it was a turnaround of sorts by the bowlers, who withstood the early onslaught to make good recovery.
Chasing 185, Australia got off to a rollicking start as Shaun Marsh (23) paired up with skipper Aaron Finch (74 runs, 48 balls, 8 fours, 2 sixes) at the top.
India opened with Ashish Nehra (0-34) and Jasprit Bumrah (2-37), but instead of rotating the bowlers at the beginning like in Adelaide, the two were persisted with for the first six overs.
And they bled runs as the 50-mark came up for Australia in 31 balls. As soon as the power play got over though, Ravindra Jadeja (2-32) was brought into the attack and things started happening, though not in India’s favour. Mahendra Singh Dhoni missed a regulation stumping of Marsh, while at the other end Finch completed his 6th T20I fifty off just 27 balls, bringing it up with a six off R Ashwin (1-27).
Thereafter, Finch survived thrice, enjoying dropped catches in two overs, one each by Umesh Yadav, Rishi Dhawan and Shikhar Dhawan, in the ninth and 10th overs respectively. The bowlers continued to suffer and the only bright spark was when Hardik Pandya finally caught Marsh at long on.
It was also perhaps the turning point. The all-rounder removed Chris Lynn (2) in the next over, caught behind. Yuvraj Singh (1-7) had Glenn Maxwell (1) stumped in the 12th over, Dhoni not missing this time.
While the 100-mark came up for Australia, Shane Watson (15) looked like staying at the wicket and giving support to Finch, who continued hitting big as he was suffering from a hamstring problem.
The duo added 20 runs and were looking to calm things down. But Jadeja took a stunning reflex return catch off Watson in the 15th over.
And the match swung in India’s favour finally when Finch was run out off a superb throw from Jadeja again at extra cover, finding the Australian skipper just short as Dhoni disturbed the bails.
It was an uphill task thereafter, with 61 runs still needed, and wickets continuing to fall at regular intervals. Jadeja was again in the mix, with James Faulkner (10) stumped in the 17th over, and the equation stood at an improbable 40 off the last 12 balls.
The 150-mark came up in the 19th over, but the hosts finished well short of the target once again.
Earlier, Sharma (60 runs, 47 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes) and Kohli (59 not out, 33 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) struck quick-fire half-centuries as India eased to 184/3.
This was after Australia won the toss and elected to field first. The hosts made six changes to their line-up in a bid to test bench strength as also filling up for a few players who have already left to prepare for the New Zealand tour.
Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Lyon, Andrew Tye, Scott Boland and John Hastings came into the side in place of David Warner, Steve Smith, Cameron Boyce, Travis Head, Kane Richardson and Shaun Tait. India, on the other hand, went in with an unchanged line-up.
Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan (42 runs, 32 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes) got off to a slow start, with Shane Watson (0-17) and Andrew Tye (1-28) opening proceedings for Australia.
They made a lot of bowling changes initially in a bid to mix things up, and it worked for a little bit as only 12 runs came off the first three overs. But the two batsmen opened up thereafter, playing shots all over the park as the run-rate shot up.
Despite the slow start, they brought up the 50-mark in the sixth over, adding 50 runs in the next four overs. They continued to push on and India closed up on the 100-mark in the 11th over itself, when Dhawan was caught trying to reverse-sweep Glenn Maxwell (1-17).
It didn’t stop Rohit though and he brought up his eighth T20I fifty off 37 balls in the next over.
At the other end, Kohli started off from where he had left in Adelaide, up and running in no time. He took the onus of scoring on himself, and hit John Hastings (0-35) for three boundaries in the 13th over, the bowler suffering throughout the innings.
The duo put up 46 runs for the second wicket in no time, scoring at 9-plus per over during the five overs they batted together.
But against the run of play, Rohit was run-out in the 16th over, as Kohli refused a second run after hitting the ball to the deep. India were placed at 143/2 at the end of the 16th over then, as skipper MS Dhoni (14) walked in to provide the final flourish.
The two batsmen upped the ante further as the run-rate didn’t come down below the 9-per-over mark, adding 38 runs off just 22 balls, pushing the score past the par-score on a relatively slower wicket than Adelaide.
In the meantime, Kohli completed his 11th T20I fifty off only 29 balls, in the 20th over, his second successive fifty of the series and his sixth 50-plus score in seven innings on this tour.
Ten runs came off the last over, and 41 off the last four, as Dhoni was caught at long-off off Tye while India coasted to a big finish. Suresh Raina (0 not out) was the unbeaten batsman, while Scott Boland (0-30), James Faulkner (0-35) and Nathan Lyon (0-15) were the other bowlers used.