A fine opening spell by Hardik Pandya and a probing effort by Kuldeep Yadav put a tight leash around Australian batters before its tail wagged considerably to take the visitors to a fighting 269 all out in 49 overs against India in the third and final ODI in Chennai on Wednesday. (More Cricket News) | (Scorecard)
While Pandya (3/44 in 8 overs) shaved off the top half, Kuldeep's (3/56 in 10 overs) rhythm and guile on a helpful Chennai track was the biggest takeaway as the latter's delivery to remove Alex Carey was the ball of the series.
It was a classical left-arm wrist spinner's leg-break that beat the southpaw all ends up and Kuldeep's ecstacy was there to be seen.
India were in control after pegging Australia back at 138 for 5 but a 58-run stand between Carey and Marcus Stoinis for the sixth wicket and 42 for the eighth wicket between Sean Abbott (26) and Ashton Agar (17) took them close to 250 while Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa added 22 precious runs for the final wicket.
What looked like a good toss to win for Australia after Mitchell Marsh (47 off 47 balls) and Travis Head (33 off 31 balls) put on 68 for the opening stand didn't seem so as Pandya bowled three different deliveries in his first three overs to completely seize the momentum in favour of the hosts.
David Warner (23 off 31 balls) and Marnus Labuschagne (28 off 45 balls) paid dearly for their indiscreet shot selection off Kuldeep's bowling before Alex Carey (38 off 46 balls) played his first innings of substance on the final day of a long near two-month tour.
Earlier, Marsh, who has had a good first two games, started from where he left in the last game and struck a flurry of fours and a six within the first Powerplay and Head also chanced his arms and got a few runs in the process.
After Shubman Gill dropped a sitter at square leg fence off a mistime pull from Head, Pandya did get the breakthrough with another back-of-the-length delivery that was slashed hard and Kuldeep didn't make any mistake at deep third man fence.
Steve Smith's (0) horrendous tour, perhaps his last full series in India, ended on a sour note as Pandya bowled a fuller delivery and the resultant snick was a regulation catch for KL Rahul behind the stumps.
After getting wickets with back-of-length and fuller delivery, Pandya bowled the conventional good length to Marsh, who played on as he approached his hat-trick of half-tons in the series.
Warner, playing at an unfamiliar No. 4 position, along with Labuschagne added 40 runs before the former gave Kuldeep the charge without reaching to the pitch of the delivery. The result was an easy catch for Pandya in the long-off region.
Labuschagne didn't learn from Warner's follies and also perished going for the glory shot.
However, the lower-order fought admirably to give Australia a chance to get back into the game.