MS Dhoni on-song is a joy to behold. Not for the purists maybe, but for every single cricket fan that enjoys the craftsmanship required to build a one-day innings. However, the Indian skipper's outstanding ton of 139 came to nought after James Faulkner decided to tonk Ishant Sharma for fun, with a 30-run 48th over turning the game Australia's way in stunning fashion.
Chasing 304, after India ended their innings on 303 for nine thanks to a special century from Dhoni, Australia never really got themselves in rhythm with the chase, before Faulkner's amazing hitting brought his side from the dead to pull off a four-wicket win in the third one-day international in Mohali.
Australia looked down and out at 213 for six, needing 91 from less than nine overs, but a crucial seventh-wicket partnership of 85 from just 49 balls from Adam Voges (76 n.o.) and Faulkner (64 n.o., 29b, 2x4, 6x6), changed the game around completely as Ishant's failings with the ball came to the fore once again.
The victory, which saw Australia reach their target with three balls to spare, gives the visitors a 2-1 lead in the seven-match series, with the next game on Wednesday in Dhoni's hometown in Ranchi.
Australia began well with Aaron Finch and Philip Hughes putting on another half-century partnership for the first wicket.
The two seemed to be doing it easily, keeping the chase on course and going at six runs an over or thereabouts. However, the Indian fast bowlers, who were under pressure to perform after a couple of poor games, came back well and started to apply the pressure by bowling a couple of tight overs.
As a result of the drying of runs, Hughes, who had gotten stuck quite a bit, fell to R Vinay Kumar, before Finch (38, 44b, 6x4) also fell, lbw to Ishant Sharma, who finished with figures of 8-1-63-1.
India were right on top and the dominance was emphasized when Ravindra Jadeja dismissed Shane Watson, although it must be said the Aussie all-rounder was unlucky to be given out lbw.
Australia were now on 88 for three after 19 overs and desperately needed a partnership, which was duly provided by skipper George Bailey and Voges (76, 88b, 7x4). The alliance was pretty similar to the Dhoni-Kohli partnership of the first innings, and Australia, even though they were well behind the run rate, were at least setting some kind of platform for the final charge.
The 83-run partnership from 17.1 overs was ended by Vinay Kumar, with Bailey (43, 60b, 4x4, 1x6) falling lbw. Australia then shot themselves in the foot with an unnecessary run out of Glenn Maxwell, leaving Voges and Haddin to take them to the end.
Haddin, with Australia needing 130 from 13 overs, smashed a couple of deliveries far and wide, but did not last long enough, eventually holing out in the deep to Bhuvneshwar Kumar after a 16-ball 24 (2x4, 1x6).
With the required rate well over ten at that point, only four wickets in hand the game looked lost, before Faulkner's pyrotechnics, the all-rounder finishing things off in magnificent style with a six.
Earlier, Dhoni, one-day batsman extraordinaire, came at a tricky time for his side, settled the nerves, and then went on an absolute tear, scoring a stunning 139 in 121 balls, to take India past 300.
Indian batsmen are poor players on a pitch with a little bit of pace and bounce. A cliché, they say nowadays. However, on the evidence of the third ODI against Australia in Mohali, that cliché might have a point.
After the heady highs of Jaipur, where India absolutely pummelled the Australia bowlers to every corner of the ground, the visitors fought back well, before the blades of Virat Kohli (68) and Dhoni (139 n.o., 121b, 12x4, 5x6), always there when you need him, decided to do the talking.
India were teetering on 76 for four, with Australia, and their fast bowlers, led by Mitchell Johnson, purring, before Kohli, first, and then that great one-day finisher, Dhoni, took India to 303 for nine.
Australia had to wait for India to smash 176 runs before they picked up a single wicket in the previous ODI, but this time it took just 11 balls, as Shikhar Dhawan edged one to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin off a nice back-of-a-length delivery from Clint McKay.
Rohit Sharma might have been expected to carry on from that brilliant unbeaten 141, but the short ball came to haunt him as a well-directed bouncer from Shane Watson found a top-edge which was snared by Aaron Finch running from first slip - Sharma only managing 11 from 22 deliveries.
The onus was now on Kohli and India's newly designated No. 4 Suresh Raina to put on a good partnership and set a platform, oh so necessary, in the 50-over game.
Raina (17, 19b, 2x4) looked decent for a while, and seemed to be determined to negotiate some of the short-pitched stuff; however as is the case almost always with the elegant left-hander, the short ball found him eventually -- this time a Johnson delivery which found the toe-end of the bat to Watson at first slip as Raina went for a pull shot.
The match was set now for local boy Yuvraj Singh to come in and play a blinder; unfortunately the left-hander poked at another ball, his first, that spit off the hands off Johnson with Haddin doing the needful.
India were now in trouble, but with when-is-he-isn't-in-form Kohli and Dhoni, the hosts batted their way out of trouble slowly. The duo allied for 72 runs from 16.2 overs, with Kohli playing a completely different innings from the tearaway century on Wednesday.
The tone was set really, for India to accelerate in the final 15-20 overs or so as Kohli and Dhoni looked good in the middle. However, Glenn Maxwell, of all people, picked up the crucial wicket of Kohli (68, 73b, 9x4) and the breaks were put on yet again. George Bailey must be given credit for his captaincy, marshalling his bowlers around quite well.
Ravindra Jadeja was the next victim to a short one from Johnson (four for 46) soon after, before Dhoni's nous in the one-day game came to the fore.
There really is nobody better in reading the game and conditions, and Dhoni, despite seemingly injuring his ankle right at the beginning, did as well as he could have really, first putting on 76 for the sixth wicket with R Ashwin (28, 35b, 3x4), before going slam-bang, like only he can.
The skipper reached his hundred - the first Indian to do so in an ODI in Mohali - while cranking it up a stupendous gear, albeit with a dropped catch from Bailey right at the end, with India scoring 57 runs in the final five overs to reach the score of note.
Dhoni's masterclass proved to be just short as Faulkner took all the plaudits.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Top Ten Richest Americans [PHOTOS]
- Is Orlando Bloom’s Wife, Miranda Kerr Singing Love Songs for James Packer? [WATCH VIDEOS]
- 'Jelena' Romance: Selena Gomez Shares her Most Shocking Date with Justin Bieber Involving $3M- Diamond [PHOTOS/VIDEO]
- Watch Out, Robert Pattinson! Kellan Lutz Reveals He Turned Down The Role Of ‘Twilight’ Lead Edward Cullen [PHOTOS/ VIDEOS]