Indians pocket sixth straight bilateral series with an easy chase

While maintaining its 100 per cent record in Indore, India, powered by fifties from Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Hardik Pandya, ensured a triumph in its sixth successive bilateral series.

Hardik Pandya heaves the ball to put it out of the park. His 72-ball 78 contained five fours and four sixes.   -  PTI

The Australian top-order, bolstered by Aaron Finch's presence, fired for the first time in the series. Despite India's restriction in the death overs, a target of 295 – although below par, considering the batter-friendly strip at the Holkar Stadium – was far from being a cakewalk for India's batting line-up.

The Indian batters sealed the five-match series with a five-wicket win. While maintaining its 100 per cent record in Indore, India ensured a triumph in its sixth successive bilateral series. Besides the team's ninth successive win also equalled its longest winning streak in ODIs, registered between November 2008 and February 2009.

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The Indorians, almost 25,000 in attendance, would have hoped for the famed top-three of India's batting line-up to do the job. Rohit Sharma was in his element, tonking the Australian pacers' short-pitched deliveries into the stands. A pull off Kane Richardson in the ninth over that sailed over the roof was the highlight of his knock.

Rahane, meanwhile, preferred to find gaps through the field, driving and cutting without difficulty. Even though the openers perished in the space of two overs — with Sharma miscuing a pull off Nathan Coulter-Nile to offer a skier to Hilton Cartwright, who ran in from deep mid-wicket and Rahane paying the price for playing across the line and missing one from Pat Cummins — their 139-run stand had laid the foundation for India's win.

India offered Hardik Pandya another opportunity to bat at No. 4. His aggressive knock of 78 ensured India didn't suffer heavily after the dismissals of captain Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav in quick succession, with the latter throwing his wicket away with an obnoxious swat off Richardson.

Pandya pounced on Ashton Agar, sending the left-arm spinner into the stands four times. However, the shot of the match came in the 45th over when Pandya waited till the very end to just whisk a short one from Marcus Stoinis over 'keeper Peter Handscomb's head just when the ball was crossing his head. So late did he time the ball that the cut even left Australia skipper Steven Smith perplexed.

Pandya's impressive knock finally ended with a dolly to mid-on off Cummins. But the crowd didn't mind it since it offered them an opportunity to have a glimpse of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who accompanied Manish Pandey for the last 10 runs.

However, had it not been for Finch's rampage early in the afternoon, Dhoni would perhaps not have had to take guard. Finch, playing his first game of the series after having recovered from a calf strain, expectedly started off on a tentative note. But after his first boundary — off an edge off Jasprit Bumrah in the fourth over —  he started playing confidently.

He didn't spare any of India's bowlers, especially going after the Kuldeep Yadav. His scintillating century — first in 25 innings over 20 months — had set up the platform for Australia to put on an imposing total. However, once he and Smith perished in quick intervals, India tightened the noose around the Australian lower middle-order. While the spin duo of Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal frustrated Glenn Maxwell by not pitching a single delivery in the batsman's arc before he was stumped off the latter, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah finished on a strong note to ensure the batsmen didn't have a gargantuan task.