SYDNEY: An inspired India recorded their highest run-chase ever on Australian soil as they pulled off a dramatic last ball seven wicket victory in the third and final Twenty20 International to achieve a rare 3-0 clean sweep against the hosts, here today.
The win also promoted Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys to the top of the ICC T20 rankings and they now lead the table in the shortest and the longest format.
This is India’s second highest run-chase after they overhauled 202 against Sri Lanka at Rajkot back in 2010.
Suresh Raina (49 n.o) and comeback man Yuvraj Singh (15 n.o) kept their cool as they blasted the required 17 runs off the final over to chase down a mammoth target of 198 set by Australia riding on stand-in captain Shane Watson’s incredible 124 not out off 71 balls.
Rookie Andrew Tye was given the final over by Watson with 17 runs to get off the final over with a shaky Yuvraj batting for the first time in the series on strike.
He had scratched his way to 5 off 9 balls before whipping a delivery on the pads over fine leg for a boundary.
With 13 needed from five balls, it was vintage Yuvraj as he rocked back and smashed Tye over deep mid-wicket for a six to bring the equation down to 7 from four balls.
Yuvraj and Raina then scampered home for a single to make it 6 from three balls.
A couple of doubles from Raina made it two from the last ball as all the fielders were brought inside the circle.
The UP left-hander kept his cool as he slashed it over point and the Indian dug-out erupted in wild celebrations as the players rushed to the ground to congratulate the duo.
Raina’s 25-ball effort had half a dozen fours and a six.
However, a lot of credit should go to the in-form men Rohit Sharma (52, 38 balls) and Virat Kohli (50, 36 balls), who added 78 runs in 9.1 overs.
Shikhar Dhawan’s smashing cameo of 26 from 9 balls also helped India get off to a rollicking start.
The T20 series turned out to be an ideal boost for the ‘Men In Blue’ ahead of the ICC World T20 in little over a month’s time in their own backyard.
India’s next assignment is in Pune against Sri Lanka on February 9.
Dhawan and Sharma provided a blistering start to the Indian innings, taking 42 runs off the first three overs. Shaun Tait (0-46) and Scott Boland (0-34) were taken to the cleaners, particularly the former as he was taken for boundaries at will by both batsmen.
The run-rate shot up to 13-plus an over but Dhawan was the victim of his own aggression, caught behind off Shane Watson (1/30) in the 4th over.
That brought Kohli to the crease, and despite the loss of Dhawan, the scoring continued unabated though a tad slower. The Indian 50-mark came up off just 25 balls, and the in-form duo made merry in the middle.
They put on 78 runs for the 2nd wicket, with the runs coming off only 55 balls, gathering runs at pace as the Indian 100-mark came up in only 9.4 overs.
Sharma reached his 9th T20I fifty off 35 balls, in the 12th over then, but was out next straight up in the next over, caught by Watson at midwicket off leg-spinner Cameron Boyce (2-28).
In fact, it was the leg spinner who nearly seemed to turn the match around for his side, bowling a brilliant spell in the middle overs. He should have had two wickets in that same over, but keeper Cameron Bancroft spilled an easy chance to stump Raina (49*, 25 balls, 6 fours, 1 six).
Kohli meanwhile reached his 12th T20I fifty off 35 balls in the 15th over, and looked primed for the run-chase, when he deflected a delivery onto his stumps off the very next ball.
It left the innings in a lurch, with 51 more runs needed at that stage, when Yuvraj Singh (15*) walked in to bat for the first time in the series.
The left-hander took his time to get going, but with 34 runs needed off the last three overs, Raina got into the act and made sure that India never lost touch with the asking rate as the finished the match with a flourish.
Earlier, stand-in captain Watson pulverised a mediocre Indian bowling to smash an unbeaten 124 as Australia scored a commendable 197 for five in 20 overs after opting to bat.
The seasoned all-rounder played only 71 balls hitting 1 four and half a dozen of sixes carrying his bat through the innings after winning the toss.
Such was Watson’s dominance that the next best score was 26 from Travis Head.
Indian bowlers who were impressive in the first two games were belted out of the park as Australian batsmen hit a total of 16 boundaries and seven sixes in their innings.
The hit pair of Ravichandran Ashwin (1/36) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/41) gave away 77 runs in their quota of eight overs together.
Watson and Khawaja (14) then opened the innings against Ashish Nehra (1-32) and Jasprit Bumrah (1-43), and got off to a blistering start.
The duo punished the Indian pacers, especially Watson was severe on the youngster taking his two overs for 26 runs. Nehra sent back Khawaja in the 3rd over, caught behind, but Watson continued his onslaught on the bowling in the company of Shaun Marsh (9) as the Australian 50-mark came up in the 6th over.
Australia: Usman Khawaja c Dhoni b Nehra 14, Shane Watson not out 124, Shaun Marsh b Ashwin 9, Glenn Maxwell c Raina b Yuvraj 3, Travis Head b Jadeja 26, Chris Lynn c Jadeja b Bumrah 13, Cameron Bancroft not out 0. Extras: (LB-2, W-4, NB-2) 8. Total: (for 5 wickets in 20 overs) 197. Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-69, 3-75, 4-168, 5-193. Bowling: Nehra 4-0-32-1, Bumrah 4-0-43-1, Ashwin 4-0-36-1, Jadeja 4-0-41-1, Yuvraj 2-0-19-1, Pandya 2-0-24-0.
India: Rohit Sharma c Watson b Boyce 52, Shikhar Dhawan c Bancroft b Watson 26, Virat Kohli b Boyce 50, Suresh Raina not out 49, Yuvraj Singh not out 15. Extras: (B 1, W 7) 8. Total: (3 wickets; 20 overs) 200. Fall of wickets 1-46, 2-124, 3-147. Bowling: Shaun Tait 4-0-46-0, Scott Boland 3-0-34-0, Shane Watson 4-0-30-1, Andrew Tye 4-0-51-0, Cameron Boyce 4-0-28-2, Glenn Maxwell 1-0-10-0. – PTI