Virat Kohli set it up and, for the first time in a while, MS Dhoni was there to finish it although India were grateful to a cameo from Dinesh Karthik to secure a six-wicket win with four balls remaining. The victory set up a series decider in Melbourne on Friday.
When Kohli found deep midwicket shortly after reaching his 39th ODI hundred – one he celebrated in animated fashion – India still needed 57 off 38 balls and Dhoni had played a very sedate second fiddle to the captain. He launched Nathan Lyon for six and had just enough in the tank and the legs to ensure a meltdown on social media was perhaps avoided for now. He ensured the victory when he swung Jason Behrendorff over long-on with the first ball of the final over.
It could have been a different story, however, without the lively Karthik who took the pressure off Dhoni with boundaries from Jhye Richardson and Marcus Stoinis. Towards the end Dhoni was struggling at the end of a hot day, but was still able to sprint a three in the penultimate over.
Shaun Marsh's seventh ODI hundred – and the fourth in his eight ODI innings – had anchored Australia's 9 for 298 which was formed around four middle-order stands that ranged from 52 to the 94 he added with Glenn Maxwell. However, a late collapse of 4 for 3, including the wickets of Maxwell and Marsh in the same over, meant they couldn't reach 300. The efforts of Marsh and Kohli, who both spent 90 and 86 overs respectively in the field on a day that touched 42 degrees, were a testament to their fitness and resilience.
Australia didn't make the early inroads they did at the SCG, this time Shikhar Dhawan peppered the boundary five times in a 28-ball 32 before trying for a sixth and lofting a catch to mid-off. After the early high tempo, the chase settled into a steadier pace with Rohit Sharma and Kohli adding 54 in 10 overs followed by 59 between Kohli and Ambati Rayudu.
Rohit, who made 133 in Sydney, was starting to move through his gears with sixes off Peter Siddle – a wonderful pick-up off the hip – and Lyon, when he was caught deep on the leg side by Peter Handscomb, who judged it well coming out of the setting sun. The bowler, Marcus Stoinis, celebrated in a manner not dissimilar to Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk.
Rayudu's innings was curious and without much timing, his two boundaries coming from edges to third man, and Kohli had to be alert that the asking rate did not climb too far. Whether it was an instruction from his captain, Rayudu then suddenly tried to clear the leg side off Glenn Maxwell and didn't succeed. These two matches in Australia have not been great for his World Cup ambitions.
Kohli has achieved the ultimate aim of this tour – to win the Test series – but that has not dulled his competitive instincts at all. If anything, the defeat at the SCG may well have given him the motivation to go again. As he launched into the Australia attack when the chase was in the balance, he responded to some of his boundaries with vocal reactions.
The period where the chase went firmly India's way was in the 34th over as Kohli took on Behrendorff with a back-foot drive followed by a thumping blow over long-on. A beautiful straight six off Lyon followed although it took him 13 balls to go from 91 to his century as Richardson and Stoinis applied pressure. It was a rare moment of misjudgement when he flicked straight to deep midwicket but Kohli isn't the only one who knows how to calculate a chase.
Given how close it was at the end, the way India closed out with the ball – save for the two boundaries Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceded to Lyon off the last three balls – proved a key period with the final three overs bringing just 17 runs after Marsh and Maxwell had given Australia a chance to push 320.
Aaron Finch failed again, bowled by Bhuvneshwar for the second innings in a row, and after 10 overs Australia were 2 for 38. The innings was stabilised by Marsh and Usman Khawaja, who added 56 in nearly 11 overs, but just as the pair were finding their stride Ravindra Jadeja produced a magnificent direct hit from backward point to remove Khawaja.
Handscomb and Stoinis contributed to half-century stands, but it was only Marsh who could go big. He played the spinners well throughout: a boundary off Jadeja took him into the 90s, and another off Kuldeep Yadav carried him to 99, and he then worked a single down the ground to take him to a 108-ball century. One of the shots of the innings followed when he lofted Kuldeep inside-out over extra cover for six in the wristspinner's expensive final over.
Marsh's one-day form has been one of the few high points amid Australia's white-ball struggles and this century backed up his fifty in the opening match of the series. Since returning to the ODI side on the tour of England last year, Marsh has scored 601 runs at 66.77 and appears one of the few batting certainties for Australia heading into the World Cup.
Maxwell, whose role has been much debated, benefited from the DRS on 26 when it saved him from being lbw to debutant Mohammed Siraj who had a tough first outing as he finished with the second-most expensive figures on debut for India.
India 4 for 299 (Kohli 104, Dhoni 55, Maxwell 1-16) beat
Australia 9 for 298 (Marsh 131, Maxwell 48, Bhuvneshwar 4-45) by six wickets Agencies