After being promoted to bat at no. 4 position, all-rounder Hardik Pandya smashed a quick-fire 78 off just 72 balls to help India beat Australia by five wickets in the third one-day international at Indore on Sunday. India finished on 294/5 in 47.5 overs in reply to Australia's 293/6 and took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series. (SCORECARD)
This was India's sixth successive win in a bilateral ODI series against all teams, it puts them on top in the ICC one-day rankings. Also, it was Australia's 11th loss in 13 ODIs away from home. (Match Highlights)
"I saw the promotion as an opportunity rather than a surprise," Pandya said. "I try to contribute in every way I can. I want to get better."
Pandya won his second man-of-the-match award in three games.
Allrounder Pandya struck five fours and four sixes after he was surprisingly promoted up the order. He built on the groundwork laid by openers Ajinkya Rahane (70) and Rohit Sharma (71).
Earlier, Aaron Finch scored his eighth ODI hundred for Australia.
Finch scored 124 runs off 125 balls, with 12 fours and five sixes, and shared 154 runs for the second wicket with Australia captain Steve Smith (63 off 71) to shore up the misfiring Australian batting.
Smith had won the toss and elected to bat first at Holkar Cricket Stadium.
Pandya bowled with great control on a batting-friendly wicket, returning figures of 1/58 in 10 overs.
Unchanged India began its chase with a 139-run opening stand. Sharma reached his 33rd ODI half-century off 42 balls, while Rahane got his second successive half-century - and 21st overall in ODIs - off 50 deliveries.
India's 100 came up off only 90 balls as the duo continued to attack Australia. Sharma was the first to fall, miscuing a shot to deep midwicket off Nathan Coulter-Nile in the 22nd over. Sharma faced 62 balls overall, and hit six fours and four sixes.
When Rahane was trapped leg before by Pat Cummins (2/54), Pandya and skipper Virat Kohli (28) were brought together at the crease, and they kept the attacking momentum going.
"It was (head coach) Ravi Shastri's thought to promote him," said Kohli. "He felt we needed to attack their spinner. We totally back Hardik."
The duo added 56 runs for the third wicket. Pandya took a liking to Ashton Agar and carted him for four sixes, bringing up his 50 partnership with Kohli off 55 balls. India crossed 200 in the 34th over and the result seemed a formality.
Australia struck back with a double-blow. Kohli holed out to long-on off Agar in the 35th over, while in the next over, Kedar Jadhav (2) was caught behind off Kane Richardson. India was reduced to 206/4.
Manish Pandey (36 not out) then joined Pandya and put on 78 runs for the fifth wicket. Pandya fell with 10 runs needed, holing out to mid-on off Cummins. MS Dhoni (3 not out) completed the formalities.
This was Kohli's 30th win in 38 ODIs as captain, second only to Ricky Ponting (31).
"I felt they were 35-40 runs short. That gave us a lot of confidence. Rohit and Rahane were very good, and then Hardik, only he can do what he does when he bats like that," Kohli said. "He possesses ability with the bat, ball and in the field as well. We have wanted a guy like that for the past five, six years."
Finch and David Warner (42 off 44) put on 70 runs, Australia's best opening stand in the series so far, with their 50 partnership coming up in 61 balls.
Pandya got the breakthrough for India in the 14th over as Warner missed the line completely and was bowled. There was no respite, however, as Finch and Smith put up Australia's best batting display of this tour yet.
Finch reached his half-century off 61 balls as Australia's 100 came up in the 20th over. In perfect batting conditions, the duo handled the wrist spinners particularly well with Kuldeep Yadav (2/75) proving expensive in his 10 overs. Finch and Smith brought up their 100 partnership off only 99 balls.
Finch then scored his first ODI hundred on Asian soil off 110 balls. Australia crossed 200 in the 35th over and looked set for a mammoth total before Indian bowlers hit back.
It began with Finch's dismissal in the 38th over, who was caught off Yadav at deep midwicket after hitting the young left-arm leg spinner for three sixes during the course of his innings. At the other end, Smith completed his 19th ODI half-century off 55 balls.
After Smith holed out at long off, with Yadav the bowler again, Australia lost its way completely as Yuzvendra Chahal (1-54) struck the very next ball and Glenn Maxwell (5) was stumped trying to charge the spinner.
Australia had collapsed from 224/1 to 243/4 in the space of 26 balls as Indian bowlers exerted greater control on the innings. Australia scored only 59 runs in the last 10 overs.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/52) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0/52) put the brakes on the scoring with some exemplary bowling in the death overs.
Overall, Australia lost five wickets for 51 runs in 10 overs to finish with a disappointing total for the tourists.
"330-plus might have been a different result," Smith said. "Hardik was magnificent, and Rohit and Rahane were fabulous too."
India had a 26-run victory in the rain-affected first match at Chennai and 50-run win in the second match at Kolkata.
The fourth ODI is at Bengaluru on Sept. 28.