Nagpur, Oct 1 (IANS) Rohit Sharma struck a century as India beat Australia by seven wickets in the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI) at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground here on Sunday to end the series on a winning note.
India thus won the series 4-1. The victory also helped India regain the top spot in the ODI rankings, pushing South Africa to the second spot. Australia remain third.
Chasing a modest target of 243 runs, India crossed the line with 43 balls still remaining.
Sharma and fellow opener Ajinkya Rahane put on a 124-run partnership in 22.3 overs which virtually sealed the match in India’s favour.
Sharma plundered 125 runs off 109 balls with his innings featuring 11 boundaries and five hits over the fence. This was his 14th century in the 50-over format.
Sharma became the fastest Indian to reach the 2,000-run milestone in ODI cricket at home. He surpassed former India captain Sourav Ganguly and present incumbent Virat Kohli to the top spot.
The right-hander from Mumbai achieved the feat in 42 innings while Ganguly took 45 and Kohli needed 46.
Rahane, who has also been in good form in this series, played a steady knock of 61 runs off 74 balls which included seven boundaries.
Fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile finally broke the partnership when he trapped Rahane leg-before.
Kohli then joined Sharma in the middle and the duo proceeded to take the hosts slowly but surely towards victory, adding 99 runs between them off 16.4 overs.
Sharma brought up his century in style, smashing Coulter-Nile for a six over mid-wicket.
He continued to torment the Australian bowlers before falling to leg-spinner Adam Zampa while trying to go over the top.
Kohli, who was cruising along with 39 runs off 55 deliveries, fell just three balls later when a mistimed drive into the hands of Marcus Stoinis at long off handed Zampa his second wicket of the match.
Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey then took India past the post, the latter hitting Australian pacer James Faulkner for two consecutive boundaries to bring up the victory in style.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers put in a disciplined performance to restrict the visitors to 242/9.
In-form opener David Warner was the highest scorer for Australia with 53 runs off 62 balls. It was the left-hander’s 17th fifty in ODI cricket.
After Australian skipper Steven Smith won the toss and elected to bat, Warner and fellow opener Aaron Finch (32) laid a solid foundation of 66 runs but the following top-order batsmen failed to sustain the momentum.
However, Travis Head (42) and Marcus Stoinis (46) put up an 87-run fifth-wicket stand to haul Australia to a respectable total though it may not be enough to stop India from winning the series 4-1.
For India, left-arm spinner Axar Patel was impressive, claiming three wickets for 38 runs in 10 overs.
Warner and Finch started strongly, putting the Indian opening bowlers under pressure. Both of them played calculated knocks as the partnership flourished.
Medium-pacer Hardik Pandya broke the dangerous-looking partnership as Finch was caught by Jasprit Bumrah at mid-off on the third ball of the 12th over, with Australia at 66/1.
Smith (16) joined Warner in the middle. But the partnership lasted for only 34 runs after Smith, attempting a sweep shot, missed a quick delivery from part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav and the bowler appealed successful for a LBW.
Australia’s slide continued and Patel delivered a big blow by removing Warner, who offered a straight catch to Pandey at long on.
Two overs later, the Gujarat spinner bagged his second wicket in the form of Peter Handscomb (13).
Travis Head (42) and Marcus Stoinis (46) then hauled Australia out of the rot with an 87-run fifth-wicket stand. Both of them took time to settle down and it meant that the spinners ran through their overs with less pressure.
But Patel claimed his third victim to break the stand when Head was bowled as he missed the line and length of the ball trying to sweep it in the sixth delivery of the 43rd over.
Two overs later, Stoinis perished too, with Bumrah getting an LBW decision. These two wickets allowed India to contain Australia even in the death overs.
Matthew Wade (20) and James Faulkner (12) then did their best to take Australia to 242/9.
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