India took back their No. 1 ODI ranking by shackling Australia after yet another good start and then chasing down the possibly tricky 243 with apparent ease. India won the series 4-1 – a reversal of the scoreline in the ODIs in Australia early last year – with just one century from their batsmen, that too in the last innings by Rohit Sharma, but a third successive hundred-run opening partnership between Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane.
India won the final match on the dry and slow Nagpur track through spin. India’s spinners pulled back a bolted horse, conceding 134 for 4 in 30 overs between them; Australia’s Adam Zampa released all the pressure exerted by the quicks with the new ball, conceding 48 in six insipid overs before getting Rohit out with a long hop when the match was over for all practical purposes.
For a change, Marcus Stoinis and Travis Head staged half a recovery from the strikes of the spinners, but the returning Jasprit Bumrah put in a stellar spell of death bowling, removing Stoinis, bowling a maiden in the 45th over, not conceding a single boundary in his last six overs.
Australia went from 100 for 1 to 118 for 4 to 205 for 4 to their eventual total, which was not straightforward on this pitch. However, Rohit and Rahane absorbed the good spells from Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins at the top, before cashing in on the absence of the unwell Kane Richardson and the error-prone spin.
India, too, had to contend with the illness of Yuzvendra Chahal, but Kuldeep Yadav proved to be a more than fitting replacement, Axar Patel returned another impressive set of figures of 3 for 38, and for the first time in his career, Kedar Jadhav bowled his full allotment of 10 overs. He also kick started the first collapse by adding Steven Smith to the illustrious list of batsmen he has dismissed, which includes Kane Williamson, David Warner, Angelo Mathews and Tamim Iqbal among others.
This had come after yet another rapid start by Aaron Finch and David Warner, who seemed mindful that batting was going to get difficult once spin came on.
hat even 242 was tricky showed in how Rohit struggled to get his timing for a long time. He didn’t score a run off the first 14 balls he faced. He tried an ungainly heave off the 14th. Had the asking rate been higher, would he have been able to take his time and pick his targets?
How well Rohit picked his targets, though. Not one of the first 14 balls was pitched up to him. He was clearly looking uncomfortable, but when the 15th one was in his driving arc, he caressed it to the right of mid-off. The next full ball went sailing over mid-off. Coulter-Nile, the highest wicket-taker of the series, and Pat Cummins tested the openers, but ran out of support.
As the bowling errors piled on, the India openers delighted the capacity crowd in the outskirts of Nagpur. If Rahane drove on the up through covers, Rohit managed to somehow find enough timing on this low pitch to punch a short ball for a six over long-on. Twice. Despite a slow start to the series, Rohit now topped the runs chart. If there was one blemish on the victory, it was that despite his fourth straight half-century, Rahane once again perished the moment he tried to look for a higher gear.
Summarized scores: India 243 for 3 (Rohit 125, Rahane 61) beat Australia 242 for 9 (Warner 53, Stoinis 46, Axar 3-38) by seven wickets