Suresh Raina produced an innings of great composure to help India to a thrilling last-ball victory over Australia in the third and final T20 International here on Sunday. Raina smashed a 25-ball-49, never once appearing flustered, as India chased down a total of 197 at the SCG to sweep the KFC T20 series 3-0.
The visiting side needed 17 runs off a dramatic final over, sent down by Andrew Tye. Yuvraj Singh swung the first ball away for four through fine leg before unleashing a flat six over mid-wicket. It boiled down to two off the last ball, when Raina sliced Tye over point for four.
The result took the sheen off an excellent, unbeaten 124 from Shane Watson, who not two months ago admitted that he believed his international career to be over. On Sunday, captaining his country, he made the second-highest individual score in a T20 International.
Australia may have felt it had a competitive score, but India began rather well, with Shikhar Dhawan going berserk at the top. He clouted a nine-ball-26, punishing Shaun Tait in particular. Tait went for 24 from his second over as India raced to 42 without loss in three overs.
Dhawan’s exit only heralded the arrival of Virat Kohli. He and Rohit Sharma continued their golden run in this land, scoring yet another pair of half-centuries. Sharma was out for 52, caught at midwicket off Cameron Boyce. The leg-spinner should have dismissed Raina two balls later, but the wicket-keeper Cameron Bancroft, making his debut here, bungled what ought to have been a simple stumping. Raina was on 0 then. Next ball, he hammered Boyce for six.
When Kohli fell, bowled for 50 after Boyce’s delivery ricocheted onto the stumps off his foot, India still needed 51 runs off the last five overs.
Raina played a couple of delicate glances down the leg-side for four, before shuffling across his stumps to flick Tye into the same region. Yuvraj, it must be said, looked uncertain, labouring through Watson’s five-run 19th over. He was on five off nine balls when the final over began; for him and for India, though, it would end well.
Earlier, the Australian innings was anchored by a splendid hundred from Watson. The 34-year-old needed seven balls to score his first run, but he was unstoppable thereafter.
Ashish Nehra was pulled for an early six while Jasprit Bumrah — who went for 27 from his first two overs — was driven through the covers off successive balls. Usman Khawaja, making his T20 debut here, struck a pair of glorious boundaries through the on-side before he was claimed by Nehra. At the other end, Watson was striking the ball cleanly. M.S. Dhoni placed three fielders in the ring behind the wicket on the off-side, but Watson steered the ball through the gaps in between on more than one occasion. His 50 came off 37 balls, the launching pad built for a big assault.
India’s spinners, who were introduced starting from the sixth over, pulled things back as may have been expected. R. Ashwin bowled Shaun Marsh and Yuvraj dismissed Glenn Maxwell —for the second time in two matches — with his first delivery, as the scoreboard read 80 for three at the halfway mark.
At this stage, though, Watson exploded. He was dropped on 56 by Kohli at deep cover, and he made India pay. The next delivery was clubbed for four, with Hardik Pandya conceding 15 runs that over.
Watson moved from 50 to a century in 23 balls, muscling Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin over the ropes.
In Melbourne, the strapping Queenslander had spoken of not being worried about his Australia future anymore. It had, he believed, freed him of the weight of expectation. That cannot be disputed now.
Jadeja, who had gone for nine runs from his first two overs, was taken for 32 in the next two. His final over went for 19 runs, a phase of play in which Dhoni missed a run-out opportunity.
Watson completed his ton off 60 balls, as Australia clobbered 117 runs off the final 10 overs to set India a steep target.