Pandey's maiden ODI ton helps India clinch thriller
India 4 for 331 (Pandey 104*, Rohit 99, Dhawan 78, Hastings 3-61) beat Australia 7 for 330 (Warner 122, Mitchell Marsh 102*, Bumrah 2-40, Ishant 2-60) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni, rising star and fading force, combined to deliver India victory over Australia at the last possible opportunity in another run-fest at the SCG. Having crumpled in a humiliating heap in Canberra, the tourists were able to hold their nerve this time, helped by a pair of critical Australian dropped catches.
David Warner and Mitchell Marsh had made centuries for Australia, but the allrounder conceded 13 from the final over of the night to allow the visitors avoid the ignominy of a 5-0 series sweep. It also provided partial vindication of Dhoni's longtime belief in seeing out an innings, even if his steady 34 was a diminished version of supreme closing displays he used to be able to put together for his team. Australia were denied an unbeaten home summer.
Fluent hands from Shikhar Dhawan and the Man-of-the-Series Rohit Sharma had put India in sight of victory though both men fell short of centuries. Dhawan was brilliantly caught by Shaun Marsh at deep point, before Rohit reached 99 only to edge John Hastings behind and be given out by the umpire Paul Wilson after a dramatic pause for the crowd of 33,710.
Pandey, playing his fourth ODI, weathered that moment and pushed on to his highest and best innings for India. His crisp stroke play found plenty of gaps around the SCG and kept the run chase within sight. Dhoni arrived at the fall of Rohit's wicket and after a halting start India's captain gradually found his range in time-honoured fashion.
The pair allowed the equation to leak out to 35 to win from the final three overs, before taking 13 from the 48th over and nine from the 49th. Needing 13 from the final over, Mitchell Marsh gave away a wide first ball, before Dhoni hammered a six over long off. He then perished trying to repeat the shot, but Pandey squirted a boundary past the gloves of Matthew Wade to reach a deserved hundred and put the result beyond doubt.
Heavy rain around Sydney in the lead-up to the match affected the ground staff's preparation, ironically resulting in arguably the fairest surface of the international summer - excepting the grassy, experimental pitch prepared for the inaugural day-night Test in Adelaide. Dhoni duly sent the Australians in, and was rewarded with early wickets.
But after the loss of Aaron Finch, Steven Smith, the captain, George Bailey and Shaun Marsh inside the first 22 overs of the afternoon, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh combined for a partnership all the more impressive for the fact that they had to deal with a moving ball for virtually the first time since Adelaide back in November.
Warner's hundred was his second from as many SCG fixtures this summer, and he also made a century against India on this ground in their Test match last January. His momentum built throughout the innings even as he appeared to try to make certain of a hundred after being dismissed for 93 in Canberra. The resultant celebration is now near enough to choreographed, but Warner added a baby-rocking motion in recognition of the recent birth of his second daughter.
Less scripted was the manner of Mitchell Marsh's celebration, having rattled to a maiden international hundred on the same ground where he made his first Sheffield Shield century for Western Australia in 2011. Twice before this summer, Mitchell Marsh had been promoted by Smith in order to grant the allrounder extra time in the middle, and he had looked awkward each time.
This was more the role he has been groomed for, staging a middle-order recovery after early wickets with good judgment and power hitting. There was some drama to Mitchell Marsh's hundredth run - he spent three nervy deliveries on 99, before flicking Ishant through midwicket to reach the milestone from a mere 81 balls. Mitchell Marsh's 82nd struck him amidships, and precious momentum was lost in the final 12 balls.
Those two overs meant India were chasing a target somewhat skinnier than they had faced in Canberra; Dhawan and Rohit began with venomous intent, and for a time there seemed nothing that would stem their momentum. The stand was worth 123 at comfortably better than a run-a-ball when Dhawan lofted John Hastings and was caught by a leaping Shaun Marsh.
Rohit's prolific scoring in this series was completed by another confident hand, which ended only when a baying crowd and tight field placed by Smith had the opener edging behind. Shaun Marsh had dropped a far simpler chance from him the over before. That wicket may have given Australia the momentum to go on to win, but Dhoni's early struggles were reprieved when Nathan Lyon spilled another chance at deep midwicket.
The spin of Lyon and Smith cost 78 from 10 overs, leaving much responsibility on the shoulders of Hastings and Scott Boland. Mitchell Marsh bowled well enough until India's final onslaught, and the all-round skills of Glenn Maxwell, missing due to a knee knock in Canberra, were notable for their absence.
Ishant Sharma had found seam movement in the very first over of the afternoon, fooling Aaron Finch into shouldering arms to a nip-backer that struck him in the vicinity of the off stump. The umpire Richard Kettleborough raised his finger without hesitation, though ball tracking was to show the ball may not quite have been moving back enough.
Smith looked at ease despite his early arrival to the crease, until the introduction of the debutant Jasprit Bumrah who appeared to catch Smith a little off guard. Bumrah generated decent pace from an abbreviated run up and unusual action, and after tying down Smith was able to gain his wicket when a pull shot found Rohit Sharma at midwicket. Bumrah later added the wicket of James Faulkner: his control put other more experienced teammates to shame.
Neither George Bailey nor Shaun Marsh were able to prosper, the former fooled by Dhawan's leg cutter and the latter a run out when Umesh Yadav's return from the outfield rebounded from the knee of Gurkeerat Singh to disturb the bails. At 4 for 117, Australia were teetering, but Warner and Marsh were to recover the innings in some style. They seemed to have done enough, until a mere seven runs from the final two overs of the innings gave India a glimpse.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig