Battling fifties from Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni lifted India to a six-wicket victory over Australia in the third ODI at Delhi.
Australia had opted to take first strike on a low and slow surface and Ricky Ponting, who opened the innings alongside Shane Watson (41), gave the visitors a steady start with a knock of 59, while Michael Hussey anchored the middle order with a businesslike 81 not out off 82 deliveries as Australia finished with a par 229 for five.
Yuvraj then scored an impressive 78, while Dhoni made an unbeaten 71, the two putting on 148 for the fourth wicket as India overhauled the target with 1.4 overs to spare.
Ponting, who promoted himself up the order to replace wicketkeeper batsman Tim Paine who is nursing a broken finger, opted to make the most of another low and slow surface at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
The openers were constrained by the conditions as well as a fairly accurate line from India’s bowlers, but their cautious approach helped build a solid platform.
Watson, rarely troubled by the new ball, showed glimpses of excellent form with a few fluent drives, while Ponting matched him shot for shot.
The two put on 72 for the opening wicket when Yuvraj finally broke the association with his left-arm spin, although equal credit ought to go to wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Yuvraj induced Watson into a drive, but the ball spun past Watson’s edge and Dhoni completed the dismissal with some smart work behind the stumps.
Dhoni used left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja inside the powerplay and had spinners operating from both ends once the fielding restrictions were removed.
Australia’s batsmen were kept in check, but Ponting went on to reach his 72nd ODI half-century and put on 56 for the second wicket with Hussey.
He was eventually dismissed, trapped in front by Jadeja, and India struck another quick blow when Cameron White was then snared cheaply, Dhoni juggling an inside edge off the pad before eventually grasping the catch.
Adam Voges looked good during a stay which yielded 17, but perished to a catch in the deep while attempting an across-the-line swipe at Harbhajan Singh.
Debutant Moises Henriques (12), who was rushed in to replace Brett Lee, and Mitchell Johnson (nine not out) provided support as Hussey, who clubbed only two boundaries en route to his 27th ODI half-century, accelerated nicely at the death.
India’s chase began in a blaze with Sachin Tendulkar driving Johnson for a couple boundaries in a first over which yielded 12.
But Peter Siddle kept things tight and Johnson struck a far more accurate line thereafter as they pulled things back quickly.
Virender Sehwag struggled to put bat to ball and was eventually bowled by Johnson for a scratchy 11, while Tendulkar was run out for 32, a direct hit from Johnson at mid-off catching the master batsman yards short of the crease.
Gautam Gambhir, who had taken a fearful blow on the neck while fielding at short leg earlier on, took his customary spot in the batting order, but he too perished cheaply, a victim of Nathan Hauritz.
From 37 for no loss, India had slipped to 53 for three when Dhoni, who cracked a sparkling century in the previous match at Nagpur, joined Yuvraj at the crease.
The pair painstakingly hauled the home side back into contention, the bulk of the runs coming in at times risky singles and twos.
India needed 87 from the last 18 overs when Yuvraj broke the shackles, hitting Hauritz for a couple boundaries in the off-spinner’s sixth over.
Voges was smashed for a six and a four in his first over – the 35th of the innings – and Henriques received the same treatment in his sixth over as Yuvraj raced to his 42nd ODI half-century.
Dhoni continued to deal in singles and twos and raised his 33rd half-century with one off Henriques, colliding with the bowler while attempting to reach the crease at the non-striker’s end and eventually getting there safely.
Yuvraj was then dismissed, leg before to Henriques, and India needed 29 from the last six overs at that stage, but Dhoni shifted gears as India cantered home.