Maxwell stars in Australia's three-wicket victory over India

Glenn Maxwell's superlative 96 off 83 balls, which included eight fours and three sixes, steered the home side to victory. With that, Australia have sealed the five-ODI series 3-0, with two more games left.

Glenn Maxwell's 96 from 83 deliveries led Australia to victory with seven balls remaining.   -  Getty Images

Virat Kohli became the quickest to hit 24 ODI centuries.   -  Reuters

India lost the VB Series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here on Sunday but not without a fight. It required an innings of great character and brio from Glenn Maxwell - a man not reputed for responsible batting - to help Australia chase down a target of 296 in the third one-day international.

> Full Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Maxwell made 96 (83b, 8x4, 3x6), and would have walked back gloriously unbeaten if not for an attempt to smash the ball over the infield with one run to win. The Victoria batsman, playing on his home ground, added 80 critical runs for the seventh wicket in the company of James Faulkner. That stand destroyed India's chances; the tide well and truly turning when Maxwell hammered 15 runs off Umesh Yadav's 43rd over. It left Australia 44 to get off the last seven overs, a task accomplished with seven balls to spare.

The three-wicket victory took the gloss off Virat Kohli's 24th ODI hundred. Australia leads the five-match series 3-0, with the fourth ODI to be played in Canberra on Wednesday.

Under lights, the run chase seemed to be adhering to a familiar script when the home side was coasting along at 112 for one in the 19th over. But Ravindra Jadeja removed the two big fish - Steve Smith and George Bailey - in the space of half an hour and the contest suddenly acquired a different colour. Smith edged the left-arm spinner behind and was held at first slip for 41 while Bailey, who had looked extremely comfortable, was smartly stumped for 23.

Australia never truly stagnated, ensuring the required run rate did not spiral out of reach even as the wickets tumbled. There was no let up in the pressure on the fielders, with India guilty of a number of sloppy errors on the ground.

Dhoni may have wished to chase after the way the first two games turned out, but that decision was taken out of his hands here. On a hot afternoon, Australia won the toss and invited India to bat. The visitor made two changes, dropping Manish Pandey and R. Ashwin to hand Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Rishi Dhawan their first caps.

Rohit Sharma, after scores of 171 and 124 in the previous matches, was caught behind for six (his average for the series still a healthy 150.5). Shikhar Dhawan, who must surely have felt the weight of his previous failures, steadily struck the ball with increasing conviction after a few early edges. He pulled with ease, on a pitch that was perhaps slower than the ones used in Perth and Brisbane, scoring a number of boundaries through the mid-wicket region.

His innings of 68 was put into the shade, though, by Kohli's blistering hundred. The right-hander ran extremely well, finding the gaps and working the angles on this enormous outfield. Only 40 of Kohli's 117 runs came in boundaries; there were 55 singles, eight twos and two threes. In between, though, there were shots of staggering brilliance and force. Two of them particularly stood out: the batsman advancing down the pitch and lashing Scott Boland over long-on, and later sending Kane Richardson to the legside boundary with a brute of a bottom-handed whip. During the course of his knock, Kohli became the quickest player to complete 7000 ODI runs, reaching the landmark in 161 innings, ahead of A.B. de Villiers (166).





Ajinkya Rahane, unsung and in some quarters, unnoticed, marched to his sixth half-century in nine one-day innings. He and Kohli added 109 runs (105b) for the third wicket, following on the back of a second-wicket stand of 119. Both Kohli and Rahane fell to John Hastings, who eventually finished with four for 58 from his 10 overs.

India was aggressively seeking to push towards a big total here. Although the exit of Kohli hurt that endeavour, it did not kill it. Dhoni clubbed a nine-ball-23, in an effort that called to mind his best days, as India made 99 runs in the last 10 overs. The visitors finished five short of 300, a total that would again prove inadequate.

Dhoni rues fielding errors

After a third straight ODI series loss in the space of seven months, M.S. Dhoni felt India's bowlers had to demonstrate major improvement if the side was to perform better. His own position, he said, did not matter. “It’s not about the leader; I’m there, somebody else will come later,” Dhoni said.

“What is more important is to see the areas we are lacking in. I feel it’s the bowling department and we have kept asking the same question whenever we have come outside. We don’t have a seaming all-rounder, so let’s not even go to that topic. But the fast bowlers, how at times they give away those easy boundaries, that puts a lot of pressure.”

Dhoni felt was India's poor fielding was a big factor in their defeat to Australia in the third ODI of the VB Series here on Sunday. Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma were all guilty of misfields at one point or another. “In this game, it was the fielding that let us down,” he said. “The best fielders in our group actually missed quite a few deliveries. You accumulate those 15 runs or maybe more, then the turnaround could have happened.”





This, combined with indisciplined bowling, Dhoni stated, had helped Australia's batsmen break free just as pressure was being built up. "It's a mistake we have made many times this series," he said.

Having said only two days earlier that it was near-impossible to find a place in the side for Rishi Dhawan, M.S. Dhoni went ahead and did exactly that at the MCG, handing him and Gurkeerat Singh a debut. It meant dropping Manish Pandey and R. Ashwin, at a venue more amenable to the off-spinner's craft than Perth and Brisbane.

“I thought he (Ashwin) bowled well in the last game but it was the only slot available for trade,” Dhoni said at the MCG here on Sunday. “We couldn’t have dropped Jadeja because that makes the batting slightly difficult...we needed that extra bowler also and for that we had to leave Manish Pandey out, so that we could bring in Gurkeerat. The pitch was slightly on the slower side, but it wasn’t like a proper turning track. There was a bit of turn and we were able to exploit it with the part-timers. Gurkeerat bowled decently, and Rishi could also mix up his pace and bowl well.”

> Listen to Indian skipper M. S. Dhoni's interaction with the media at the MCG