India 4 for 195 (Dhawan 52, Pandya 42*, Kohli 40, Swepson 1-25) beat Australia 5 for 194 (Wade 58, Smith 46, Natarajan 2-20) by six wickets

Hardik Pandya's heavy hitting delivered India a T20I series victory over Australia and their third consecutive win of the tour to give the captain Virat Kohli something to show for his trip down under in an undulating encounter at the SCG.

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The Australians were led by Matthew Wade in the absence of Aaron Finch due to injury, and he led from the front with a swift half-century at the top of the order. But the remainder of the Australian innings was spasmodic, and without any of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc, the bowling attack was well and truly below the usual level of expertise.

Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan ensured India would be in the contest until its closing passages, whereupon Pandya lined up his scoring zones with brutal efficiency. Daniel Sams was defending 14 from the final over, but with a pair of towering blows beyond the straight midwicket boundary, India claimed the series with two balls to spare.

Wade bats where he wants

In 31 previous T20Is, Wade had opened just four times. Handed the keys to the car on Sunday as stand-in captain, Wade made the most obvious captain's call available to him - promoting himself to the top of the order and the role in which he had been so dominant for the Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL. There was an international basis for the decision - Wade's only score beyond 50 had been as an opener against India as far back as 2012, also at the SCG.

In Canberra on Friday, Wade had looked somewhat lost in the middle order, an experience not uncommon to his T20I career. But at the top he was able to dictate terms, and the boundaries followed almost as if by clockwork through a more tightly packed new-ball field. Wade's crisp striking to kick off the innings gave the Australians a supercharged start, and his progress to 58 gave him some truly striking numbers as a T20I opener. How much more often he gets the chance remains to be seen.

Wade, followed by fade

It was a surprise when Wade found a fielder - Kohli no less - when he tried to find or clear the boundary a 12th time, and a still greater surprise when Kohli dropped it. Certainly Wade registered who he had hit the ball towards and then immediately turned on his heels as if already dismissed. This was a mistake, since the direction of the dressing rooms meant Wade took his eye off the ball, and then found himself run out by Kohli's return.

Australia's loss of early momentum was also down to T Natarajan, who in two games has shown himself to not only be at ease in international company, but a valuable point of difference among so may right-armers. Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah's absence was felt, but nowhere near as keenly as that of their Australian counterparts

The remainder of the innings was overall a failure to fulfill Wade's early promise, as Steven Smith could not quite find his timing, Glenn Maxwell did not hang around long enough to do genuine damage, and the late contributions of Moises Henriques and Sams were cameos rather than definitive exclamation points on the innings. All the while, the hosts and the visitors knew that Australia had a severely weakened bowling attack with which to defend their tally.

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Legspin excels

Mitchell Swepson had struggled to drop onto the right length at Manuka Oval, having been called up at short notice, and dragged short of where he wanted to be as a result. He appeared far better adjusted to the T20I format this time around, and in combination with Adam Zampa seemed to have bowled the overs that were going to keep the touring side short of their target. Notable was the appearance of a wrong'un to deceive the otherwise fluent Sanju Samson, on a pitch that offered just enough grip to the slow bowlers.

Zampa, too, had his moments, albeit somewhat more expensive. His dismissal of Dhawan arrived through a fraction of extra bounce from an overspun delivery, and Kohli's respect for Zampa's offerings was evident throughout their duel. The disappearance of Maxwell for 19 from his first and only over, however, hinted at some of the punishment being meted out elsewhere, to a decisive effect as far as the game was concerned.

Pace is vanquished

If Mitchell Starc had struggled to contain India's batsmen on a similar SCG surface before the tour caravan moved to Canberra, there was always a question to be asked of how the likes of Sams, Andrew Tye and Sean Abbott - equivalent to a middling BBL pace attack - were going to fare against a line-up lacking only Ravindra Jadeja. Sams and Tye both had their moments, the former offering handy changes of pace including the change-up that found Kohli's outside edge, and the latter impressing with an extra turn of pace that might easily have won at least one lbw verdict.

However, as the chase evolved and India's batsmen found their range, the bowlers looked increasingly defenceless. Wade elected not to return to Abbott after his first two overs went for 17, a curious call given the fact that the SCG is his home ground, and relied upon Tye and Sams for the final two overs. Defending 25, they gave up the runs from 10 of the 12 balls required. Australia's depth has been well and truly tested over these two series and, while balanced against the need to prepare for a Test series, been found wanting.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig