BANGALORE: In a week where fierce rivals England saw their Ashes campaign thrown off course by the arrest of star allrounder Ben Stokes, Australia gave their own preparations for the Test summer the tiniest of boosts by snapping a worrying streak of eight consecutive ODIs and 13 away games overall without a win.
Australia’s 21-run win over India in Bengaluru brings the series scoreline to 3-1 in favour of the hosts and also removes the prospect of the Aussies suffering their second ODI series whitewash in less than a year.
Built on David Warner’s 14th ODI century, Australia’s total of 5-334 proved to be just enough in a tight run chase that was punctuated by a short rain delay and finished with paceman Kane Richardson (3-58) getting the better of India’s lower order.
While the series is already lost, Australia’s first victory in 12 completed ODIs away from home is a tiny fillip for Steve Smith’s side as they await an Magellan Ashes re-match against an England side that, at the moment, is in turmoil.
India’s openers, like Australia’s, had made a bright start in their run chase and put their team on course for what would have been a 10th straight win.
Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane hammered seven fours and three sixes in the first 10 overs as Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile delivered an uncharacteristically loose opening spell.
Both batsmen brought up their half-centuries and even when Rahane holed out to Aaron Finch at long on for 53, one-day masters Rohit and Virat Kohli appeared in control early in their partnership.
It was Smith, having lamented his sub-standard fielding so far in this series, who produced the spark for his side. A Kohli glance towards third man appeared to be travelling harmlessly away for an easy single until a full-length dive from the skipper at backward point stopped the ball in its path and led to panic between the Indian pair. Both men were at the striker’s end when Smith’s throw narrowly missed the stumps but Peter Handscomb calmly collected and passed it to Richardson at the bowler’s end, who broke the stumps with Rohit well short after he’d turned and attempted to make his ground.
And when Coulter-Nile bowled Kohli off an inside edge two overs later, the third time he’s dismissed him in four matches, Australia were on top.
A typically belligerent 41 from Hardik Pandya led India’s revival until spinner Adam Zampa won their mini-battle before the pace trio of Cummins, Coulter-Nile and Richardson held their nerve in the closing stages to secure a tense victory.
With the required rate climbing, India lost Kedhar Jadhav, Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni in consecutive overs as Australia’s quicks bravely changed their pace and lengths to great effect, silencing the vocal weekday crowd.
Earlier, Australia’s batting stars had again delivered the platform from which to launch. Warner and Finch struck 22 fours and seven sixes between them as they put on 231 for the first wicket, the fifth-highest opening partnership ever by an Australian pair, as India’s new-look bowling attack struggled to make inroads.
Having rested Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav, the bowling stars of the first three matches, India’s replacements Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ashkar Patel leaked 100 runs in a little more than 15 overs, including 15 balls that went into the rope and one that went over it.
Warner was the more dominant of the pair and quickly raced towards another milestone in what was a milestone match, his 100th ODI for Australia.