Chennai, Mar 23 (IANS): Leg-spinner Adam Zampa took four wickets while left-arm spinner Ashton Agar chipped in with two scalps to lead Australia to a thrilling 21-run victory over India in the series decider at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here to win the series 2-1.
After posting 269 in 49 overs on a slow pitch where strokeplay wasn't easy, Zampa and Agar helped Australia fight back in the middle overs to break the back of India's batting. Even though Mitchell Starc went wicketless, the rest of bowlers along with fiery fielding show and spot-on fielding placements led to India being bundled out for 248 in 49.1 overs.
Despite India having a 65-run opening partnership, they lost four wickets for 43 runs after Virat Kohli and KL Rahul had put on 69 runs for the fourth wicket. But after Rahul and Kohli fell, the chase went downhill and India ended up on the losing side.
It also meant that India have lost a bilateral ODI series at home after four years and despite having a 1-0 lead, with Australia now becoming the new top-ranked side in the 50-over format.
Chasing 270, Shubman Gill took a liking to the pace from Mitchell Starc, whipping a six over deep mid-wicket, followed by his trademark short-arm jab and two leaning drives to pick three fours off the left-arm pacer.
Rohit Sharma joined the boundary-hitting party in the seventh over with an elegant loft over long-off for six against Starc, followed by a pre-mediated scoop and pull off Sean Abbott to get two boundaries. But he couldn't keep a swipe down and was caught at deep square leg off Abbott.
Three overs later, Gill missed a drifting in delivery from Zampa and was struck on pad first, with Australia getting him out after taking the review. Kohli took time, before pulling Agar off backfoot through mid-wicket and followed it up with a beautiful inside-out loft over extra cover for six.
Rahul then hit India's first boundary after 49 balls with a smash over Zampa's head for four, bringing up fifty of his partnership with Kohli. When Starc pitched it full, Rahul was quick to slam it down the ground for six and one ball later, unfurled a loft over extra cover for four.
Just when Rahul had started to shift gears, Zampa took him out in the 28th over as the right-hander toe-ended loft to long-on. In the next over, Axar Patel was run out after facing four balls, by a brilliant diving throw from Steve Smith at mid-wicket.
After Kohli reached his fifty in 61 balls, Hardik got off the mark with a pulled six off Abbott, followed by a punch through extra cover for four. Agar produced a twist in the 36th over as Kohli chipped a drive to long-off.
It was immediately followed by him beating Suryakumar Yadav with a skiddy delivery to get him out for a first-ball duck for the third time in the series. With the asking rate climbing and pressure building up, Hardik tried to slog across the line off Zampa in the 44th over. But the ball took the leading edge and Smith took the catch at cover.
In the next over, Jadeja danced down the pitch to slog across the line against Zampa, but sliced to backward point. Mohammed Shami hit a six and four off Marcus Stoinis, but saw his off-stump rattled later. A mix-up between Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj resulted in run-out of the former, bringing the Indian chase to an end.
Earlier, Hardik picked 3/44 while Kuldeep got sharp turn to take 3/56 as Australia lost their last five wickets for 70 runs. The duo were supported by Siraj and Axar taking two wickets each, while Jadeja bowled tight lines while conceding only 34 runs in his ten uninterrupted overs.
Electing to bat first, Mitchell Marsh was quick to pick lengths from Siraj and flicked him through mid-wicket with perfection for two boundaries. After whipping Shami over the same region for six, Marsh again drove off Siraj twice on both sides of the 'v' for boundaries.
Shami came under attack again when Travis Head whipped for six, while Marsh clipped for four through the leg-side. When Axar overpitched on the first ball of eighth over, Head lofted down the ground for six, followed by Marsh bringing up Australia's fifty with a four thumped through extra cover.
But on the fifth ball of 11th over, Head was caught at deep third man off Hardik after Gill dropped him at deep square leg just two balls before. In his next over, he extracted a drive from Smith and the outside edge went behind to KL Rahul.
Hardik had his third wicket when Marsh looked to drive a length ball outside off-stump, but inside edged to the stumps. David Warner, batting at number four for the first time in ODIs, tried to loft Kuldeep over deep mid-wicket, but got a leading edge to long-off in the 25th over.
Four overs later, Marnus Labuschagne fell to Kuldeep when he holed out to long-off. Carey and Stoinis were proactive in their sixth-wicket stand of 58, which had lot of sweeps, reverse sweeps and strike rotation. But Axar broke the partnership in the 37th over when Stoinis holed out to long-on.
Two overs later, Carey looked to defend against a leg-break from Kuldeep which was pitched around leg-stump. But the ball spun away sharply to hit the top of off-stump, leaving everyone bewildered.
Abbott made a valuable 26 before being castled by Axar in the 45th over, followed by Agar pulling a Siraj bouncer straight to deep mid-wicket. Zampa and Starc hit a boundary each, before Siraj had the latter caught at deep square-leg to end Australia's innings in 49 overs.
Brief Scores: Australia 269 all out in 49 overs (Mitchell Marsh 47, Alex Carey 38; Hardik Pandya 3/44, Kuldeep Yadav 3/56) beat India 248 in 49.1 overs (Virat Kohli 54, Hardik Pandya 40; Adam Zampa 4/45, Ashton Agar 2/41) by 21 runs