Legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal took a record 6-42 to propel India to a seven-wicket win over Australia in the third one-day cricket international and a 2-1 win in the three-match series on Friday.
Chahal’s return was not only a career-best, beating his 5-22 against South Africa, but matched the best figures in an ODI in Australia, a record held since 2004 by his compatriot, India fast bowler Ajit Aragkar.
Chahal, who missed the first two ODIs, helped India to bowl out Australia for only 230 after captain Virat Kohli won the toss on a rainy afternoon in Melbourne.
After fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed both Australia openers, Chahal ran through the middle and lower order to end the innings with eight balls left in their 50 overs.
Peter Handscomb’s 58 from 63 balls was the only substantial contribution from an Australia batting order struggling to find consistency.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni once again closed out India’s match and series victory with an unbeaten innings of 87 from 114 balls in a perfectly paced run chase, completing the win with four balls to spare for the second consecutive match.
After putting on 54 for the third wicket with Kohli (46), a century-maker in the second ODI, Dhoni completed India’s win in an unbroken partnership of 121 with Kedar Jadhav, who finished 61 not out.
Dhoni scored half-centuries in all three matches and was named man of the series. His unbeaten half-century in the second match at Sydney also saw India to victory, chasing Australia’s 298, with four balls to spare.
“It was a slow wicket so it was a bit difficult to hit wherever you want to,” Dhoni said. “It was important to take it to the end because some of their main bowlers were very tight through the middle overs, so you have to target the bowlers that you can in conditions like these.
“There’s no point in going after the ones who are bowling well. That was the game plan, very well supported by Kedar.
“He’s someone who plays some unorthodox shots. It takes some pressure off when you’re going to the last over and it helps to score a boundary in the middle of the over.”
Australia bowled exceptionally well in defense of a mediocre total. Jhye Richardson bowled his 10 overs for 27 runs, dismissing Kohli, and spinner Adam Zampa’s 10 overs cost only 34 runs.
India’s run chase was at times so slow and measured that Australia appeared to be in the match until its very late stages. Dhoni completed 50 partnerships with Kohli from 74 balls and with Jadhav from 62 balls but with no signs of urgency. Late in the innings, India went six overs without striking a boundary.
The tourists came to the last five overs needing 44 runs, vulnerable if one of the two established batsmen might have fallen. But they continued to steadily accumulate, picking the gaps in the field and the bowlers they intended to attack.
They targeted Peter Siddle and took 11 runs from his last over. India needed 14 runs from the last two overs and were able to improvise a boundary to leave the teams level when the last over began.
Jadhav hit a four from the second ball of the final over from Marcus Stoinis to win the match.
India’s series win completed their outstanding summer in Australia during which they won a test series for the first time and also won the Twenty20 series 2-0. They head to New Zealand for a series of five one-day internationals, starting on Wednesday, and two T20s.
Earlier, Chahal produced a superb display of leg break bowling to set India up for the win. He dismissed Usman Khawaja for 34, Shaun Marsh for 39, Handscomb for 58, Richardson for 16, Stoinis for 10, and Zampa for 8 to dismantle the Australia innings.
His stock ball, the leg break, turned sharply and was always effective on a slow and sticky MCG pitch.
Kumar chipped in two wickets for 28 runs and Mohammed Shami 2-47.
Australia’s fielding let it down badly and it dropped Kohli when he was 10 and Dhoni, by Glenn Maxwell at point, from the first ball of his innings.