India 5 for 302 (Pandya 92*, Jadeja 66*, Kohli 63, Agar 2-44) beat Australia 289 (Finch 75, Maxwell 59, Thakur 3-51, Bumrah 2-43) by 13 runs
India were five down in 32 overs, staring at a below-par total, and with that a series clean sweep, when Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja came together to nearly double their then score of 152, which turned out to be just enough thanks to a gun spell from Jasprit Bumrah in the end. Pandya ended up with a career-best unbeaten 92 off 76, and Jadeja doubled up his 50-ball 66 with the wicket of a set Aaron Finch and a smart low catch in the field. Australia's chase went similar to India's innings - the fourth wickets fell at the exact same point, 123 in 25.3 overs - but the hosts kept losing wickets to fall short by 13 runs.
The pitch wasn't as flat as was expected when India won the toss, and it showed in how they managed to successfully defend what was only the third-highest total in a full-length ODI at this heavy-scoring ground. That slightly tricky surface, and the lack of depth in India's XI probably resulted in a slightly cagey first half of the innings. There was a stretch where Virat Kohli, who had made a fluent start, went 50 balls without a boundary. Keeping that in mind, the effort of Pandya and Jadeja - 150 in 18 overs - was all the more special.
That being the big difference between the two sides, Pandya and Jadeja only really went after the bowling in the last five overs when there was no other option. They were good enough on the day to take 76 off those last five. Australia, though, kept going after the bowling, with Glenn Maxwell adding a 38-ball 59 to an already impressive series. He nearly brought it down to a run a ball with four wickets in hand and a little over five overs to go, but this is when Bumrah bowled him with a yorker to end the contest.
This ended a five-match losing streak for India, and accordingly it didn't come easy. They lost a wicket early after winning the toss in what was a bat-first series, and then were thwarted by the spin combination of Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa. Shikhar Dhawan chipped Sean Abbott to short cover before Shubhman Gill and KL Rahul fell lbw when sweeping Agar, and Shreyas Iyer edged Zampa to point. It is a chicken-and-egg question: did the falling wickets necessitate a Kohli slowdown or did the slowdown bring about ambitious shots from the other end that resulted in those wickets?
Kohli did push up the intent towards the 30th over only for Hazlewood to come back and get him out for the third time in this series. If the previous two short balls got Kohli on the pull, this one was wider and took the nick as he played it on the walk. He ended the year without an ODI century, but any mortal would take two half-centuries in a three-match series in what is bound to be a rusty year.
This brought together two allrounders whose batting has been under pressure to justify their selection. With Pandya not bowling, the tag of specialist batsman brings its own pressure while Jadeja - remarkable as he has been upon return - keeps out one wicket-taking spinner. However, their batting has improved a lot in the last couple of years; it was on display in unison at Manuka Oval.
Both batted like proper batsmen, getting into their innings without hugely sacrificing strike rate, especially with Pandya keeping the bowlers on their toes. With only two specialist quicks in the XI - debutant Cameron Green did put in four overs - Hazlewood and Abbott had to bowl all of the final six overs. This usually brings familiarity and the opportunity to line bowlers up, which is exactly what Pandya and Jadeja did.
Pandya first got stuck into Abbott, taking 17 off the 46th over, reaching 75 off 66 by the end of it. In the last four overs, though, it was all Jadeja as the bowling disintegrated. Abbott failed to bowl to his fields, providing Jadeja relatively easy opportunities to hit boundaries, which he took with both hands. By the end, he had hit more sixes than Pandya and his strike rate was higher too.
Debutant T Natarajan gave India their first powerplay wicket in six matches as makeshift opener Marnus Labuschagne played on, but the big one came when Thakur strangled Smith down the leg side for his first non-century score of the series. Finch, whom India reprieved three times in the field, kept the pressure on, but Thakur came back to get rid of Moises Henrqiues, who pulled a long hop straight to midwicket. Debutant Green then got stuck at the start, which brought about a low-percentage loft from Finch.
However, Australia kept challenging India. Green, Alex Carey and Agar provided support for Maxwell to accelerate at the other end. Sweep, reverse sweep, switch hit, pull, slog - everything came off as Maxwell took them to 39 required off the last six overs with four wicket in hand.
India had to go to Bumrah now. Two singles and two wides later, it seemed Australia were one final push away from breaking the chase down. Bumrah, who had had a catch dropped earlier, found the timber as Maxwell backed away to go through cover. Natarajan and Thakur then came back well to close the game out.