Adelaide: A supremely calm MS Dhoni guided India to victory, with two balls to spare, over a sluggish Australia in the ODI at Adelaide Oval.
Dhoni's composure was best measured by how he paced his innings. It bordered on the statuesque early, before he raised tempo with swift running between the wickets. He saved his one stroke to the boundary - a towering six over long on - for when he most needed it: the second ball of the final over delivered by Clint McKay, which began with 13 still required.
The next ball was a high full toss that Dhoni swung to deep midwicket, but the no-ball - called for height - gifted India a third run in addition to the two scampered between the wickets. The next delivery was helped around to backward square leg, and the final three runs were collected to take India alongside Australia on two wins from three matches.
India's chase was anchored by Gautam Gambhir's fluent 92, before Dhoni and Suresh Raina took the visitors close with a stand of 61. Raina perished in the 47th over and Ravindra Jadeja followed in the 49th, but Dhoni remained to collar the remaining runs. Test match difficulties notwithstanding, he remains the master technician in limited-overs matches.
Australia's fielding display was its least attentive of the Michael Clarke era. Only one catch of note went down but outfield fumbles were legion, and both Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja could have been run-out in the closing stages had in-fielders held their nerve.
Of even greater concern was an apparent hamstring twinge for Michael Clarke, who was running gingerly from the innings' midpoint and hobbling noticeably by the end, having left the field briefly for treatment. Clarke may now be due a spell of rest after an unbroken sequence of Tests and ODIs dating back to his first tour as captain - to Bangladesh in April 2011.
Until the final over, McKay provided the most lasting threat for the home attack, maintaining a disciplined line and changing his pace, while Xavier Doherty bowled some particularly nagging deliveries at the death to make India work for the points.
Looking very much at home in international company, the debutant Peter Forrest had built Australia's total alongside David Hussey after the innings was in danger of stalling at 3 for 81. Clarke's fluent 38 had ended when he sallied forth to attack Umesh Yadav and dragged a slower ball wretchedly onto the stumps.
Forrest was strong square of the wicket and down the ground, while Hussey's innings was another reminder of his usefulness in most limited-overs contests. Following their departure, allrounder Daniel Christian put together a handy closing contribution at the home ground of his adopted state. Few boundaries were collected in the closing overs, reflecting some diligent bowling but also the slowing of an otherwise friendly batting surface.
Yadav and Zaheer Khan were the most effective of India's bowlers, attacking the stumps while also keeping the runs down, as the tourists sought a manageable target after the selectors chose to rest Sachin Tendulkar.
Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc had found some bounce but no great pace and negligible movement when they shared the new ball, allowing Virender Sehwag and Gambhir the chance to play with freedom as they regularly pierced the offside field.
Clarke's brow was looking furrowed as the 50 was raised inside nine overs, but his introduction of McKay brought immediate results when Sehwag's leading edge to a nondescript delivery looped to point.
Gambhir and Kohli accumulated, albeit at a lesser pace, until the younger batsman tried to lace McKay over the offside field and offered a steepling chance to Forrest. Rohit Sharma's entry to the crease coincided with the introduction of spin, but after a period of thrust and parry the quicks returned.
Rohit's first response was to lash Starc over square leg for a glorious flat six, and next over he managed a cut that scorched to the fence from Christian. However some tension clearly remained in Rohit's arms, and he perished in trying to force Harris over the in-field.
Gambhir survived a chance on 88, David Warner shelling a sharp drive at short cover, but on 92 he was the victim of an lbw decision when all logic - and subsequent replays - suggested that McKay's delivery had pitched outside leg stump.
The duo of wickets forced Dhoni and Raina into salvage mode, trying to stabilise the innings even as the required-rate slithered up towards eight per over. They were helped by a series of misfields, uncharacteristic by the hosts' standards this summer.
Gradually a few boundaries closed the gap between runs and balls, Raina depositing Xavier Doherty into the crowd wide of long on. Thirty-one were required from the final four overs when Raina played over a delivery by Doherty to be bowled, leaving the stage to Dhoni.
Earlier in the day, the selectors rested Michael Hussey to give Forrest a first cap and dropped Matthew Wade down the order, shifting Ricky Ponting to the top, but neither he nor Warner had a significant impact on proceedings.
Upon winning the toss, Clarke had no hesitation batting first for the third time in as many matches in this series, but Ponting and Warner made a sluggish start against Zaheer and Vinay Kumar. Reaching out for the ball rather than letting it come to him, Ponting miscued a drive to point.
A horrid running mix-up resulted in Warner being stranded as Vinay collected Rohit's agile field-and-throw to the non-striker's end. Forrest and Clarke recalibrated somewhat before the debutant signalled his capabilities with a rasping cut from Yadav, followed by a crisp swing off Jadeja down the ground for six.
Clarke had lost some of his earlier momentum, and Yadav capitalised when his change of pace met a highly ambitious attempt to reach the boundary, leaving Hussey and Forrest to rebuild again. They did so with wisely-chosen shots - Forrest clattered a second six down the ground off the bowling of Rohit - and eager running between the wickets, lifting the hosts to 179 before Forrest presented a catch to deep midwicket.
Hussey went on in the company of Christian, scoring mainly in an efficient series of ones and twos, and looked ready to unfurl his cleanest hitting when Virender Sehwag dived smartly to hold a low chance at square leg. Christian accumulated neatly until he was heedlessly run out, and 57 from the final 10 overs proved inadequate as Dhoni held his nerve.