It was a milestone-filled evening for Rohit Sharma as his classy century helped India outplay Australia by seven wickets in the fifth One Day International to seal the series 4-1 and cement their number one spot in the ICC rankings.
Rohit not only completed his 14 ODI ton over the course of his masterful knock (and his 6th against Australia), he also became the ninth Indian to reach the 6000-run mark in ODIs.
Rohit (125) and Ajinkya Rahane (61) set up the comprehensive win with a 124-run stand, their third century stand in a row, before the former shared a 99-run partnership with captain Virat Kohli (39) to take the team on the cusp of a big victory.
Chasing a modest 243, India eventually got home in 42.5 overs with Manish Pandey hitting the winning four. The comfortable chase complemented the good work done by the bowlers, who were able to restrict Australia to a below par 242 despite a promising start by David Warner (53) and Aaron Finch (32). Axar Patel stood out among the Indian bowlers with figures of three for 38 in 10 overs.
With the emphatic series win, India also avenged the 1-4 series defeat the last time they played in Australia.
India got home rather comfortably but batting was not easy on the newly laid surface which became slower as the day progressed. Rohit and Rahane dished out an exhibition of sublime strokemaking. On display were the delightful straight drives, crispy cuts and powerful punches off the backfoot.
It was Rahane who pierced the field early on as Rohit took 15 balls to get off the mark. But after his first two scoring shots, which were straight boundaries, there was no stopping him. He mostly played with the straight bat and his special effort was laced with 10 fours and three sixes including the one he hit to get to his hundred.
Rahane was deeply disappointed to get out in the 23rd over despite his fourth successive fifty. He knew there was a hundred for the taking after all the hard work he put in early on. He got to play all five games in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
After Rahanes dismissal, Rohit and Kohli took the team closer to the finishing line but both perished while trying to clear the fence.
Earlier, Australia once again failed to build on a promising start provided by Warner and Finch. Patel bowled a tidy spell, ending with his second best figures in ODIs while Jasprit Bumrah (2/51) bounced back brilliantly in the death overs after leaking 34 runs in his first four overs.
India, who gave match practice to their reserve pacers Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami – in the previous game, went into the middle with a full strength squad. In the spin department, spinner Axar Patel took the field alongside Kuldeep Yadav as Yuzvendra Chahal was unwell.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was fairly accurate his first spell but Bumrah paid the price for being erratic. After starting with a maiden, Bumrah was guilty of bowling either too full or too short as the dangerous duo of Warner and Finch took him to the cleaners.
Bumrah ended up leaking 34 runs in his opening spell of four overs and was hit for as many seven boundaries. Finch particularly punished the usually accurate pacer, hitting him for five fours including three in a row in the eighth over.
Such was Finch’s onslaught that Australia reached 60 for no loss in 10 overs after they had scored just 21 in the first five. The two big-hitters were once again successful in providing their team a good start after Steve Smith won the toss and opted to bat for third game in a row. Their 66-run stand came after their monumental 231-run effort in Bengaluru.
Kohli had to do something to change the momentum of the game and he brought in Hardik Pandya as first change. The lanky all-rounder struck in his second over with Finch mistiming a full ball to Bumrah at mid-off.
The spin trio of Patel, Kuldeep Yadav (0/48) and part- timer Kedar Jadhav (1/48) then stemmed the flow of runs. It was also the first time Jadhav bowled his full quota of 10 overs. Jadhav was impressive and besides keeping things tight, took the prized wicket of Smith, who missed a sweep shot to be plumb in front, leaving Australia at 100 for two in the 20th over.
Two quick wickets, Warner and Peter Handscomb, followed the captains dismissal triggering a middle-order collapse and undoing the good work done by the openers.
However, it was not the first time in the series that Australia were not able to capitalize on a solid start. They were sitting pretty at 100 for one but soon found themselves under severe pressure on 118 for four in the 25th over.
Travis Head (42) and Marcus Stoinis (46) steadied the ship with an 87-run stand off 112 balls but got out just when they looked set to push the scoring rate. Eventually, the visitors could only muster 52 runs in the last 10 overs.