SYDNEY (Reuters) – India’s Virat Kohli led from the front with a sparkling 61 not out to help secure a series-leveling six-wicket victory over Australia in the third and final Twenty20 International on Sunday.
Chasing 165 to win, India suffered a mid-innings slump that left them needing 52 off the last five overs. Kohli combined with Dinesh Karthik, who made 22 not out, to see India home with two balls to spare.
India got off to a blistering start as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan collected 20 runs from the first three overs before accelerating.
They plundered 20 runs from the next over from Nathan Coulter-Nile while Marcus Stoinis bled 22 in the following over.
To stop the carnage, Aaron Finch brought back Mitchell Starc and the left-arm quick, playing his first 20-over international in more than two years, did not let his captain down, trapping Dhawan lbw for 41 to end the 67-run stand.
Adam Zampa bowled Rohit, who hit two sixes in his 23, in his maiden over and India slumped to 108-4 after KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant fell in successive deliveries.
Kohli added 60 runs with Karthik and sealed the victory with back-to-back fours.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, home captain Finch (28) combined with D’Arcy Short (33) to give Australia a flying start but the hosts could not make the most of it.
They added 68 runs for the opening partnership when Krunal Pandya got into the thick of the action in the ninth over.
The all-rounder caught Finch at short fine leg, before dismissing Short and Ben McDermott off successive deliveries to drag India back into the contest.
Alex Carey denied Pandya a hat-trick but eventually fell to the left-arm spinner after making 27.
Stoinis made a breezy 25 not out down the order as Australia overcame their mid-innings slump and collected 57 runs from the last five overs.
Pandya’s 4-36 was the best by a spinner in Australia in Twenty20 Internationals while Kuldeep Yadav also impressed conceding only 19 in a tidy four overs that included Finch’s wicket.
Australia, who won the rain-hit series opener in Brisbane, could not manage a single six in their innings against India’s eight.
The second match in Melbourne was washed out.
The teams now square off in a four-test series beginning in Adelaide on Dec. 6.