Chennai: The Indian batting unit once again choked under relentless pressure from the Australian spinners as the visitors clinched the three-match ODI series 2-1 with a comfortable 21-run victory, here on Wednesday.
Chasing a stiff target of 270 on a tricky pitch, India were all out for 248 in 49.1 overs as Australia came back in the series after losing the first ODI by five wickets.
The series defeat is an indicator that the Indian team is far from prepared for the World Cup and there are too many loose ends that needs to be tied.
The match turned out to be an anti-climax in the final 15 overs as Australian spinners Adam Zampa (4/45) and Ashton Agar (2/41 in 10 overs) snared as many six Indian wickets, giving away only 86 runs in the 20 overs between them.
The Chepauk track got slower and slower and post 35th over in the Indian innings, it became very difficult to hit the big strokes.
Once Zampa bowled a couple of googlies to force Hardik Pandya (40 off 40 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (1 off 33 balls) hit against the turn, the writing was on the wall.
It was Zampa's best figures against India and he certainly was the hero for the Aussies.
Incidentally, Australia were the last international team to beat India in a bilateral ODI series back in 2019. The score-line back then was 3-2. Since that series defeat four years back, India have won seven back-to-back bilateral ODI rubber at home.
It was three games in a row that the Indian top-order flattered to deceive and that too in home conditions. They could have been blanked 3-0 in the series had Australia scored at least 235 in the opening ODI.
The highest run-getter for India in the series was KL Rahul with 116 runs and that tells the story.
Between overs 35 to 43, India managed only 31 runs and that was where the game turned on its head.
Skipper Rohit Sharma (30 off 17 balls) started well but played one pull shot too many to be holed out at deep square leg fence while an alert Alex Carey's decision to convince Steve Smith into taking a DRS saw the back of Shubman Gill (37 off 49 balls).
Rahul (32 off 50 balls) joined Virat Kohli (54 off 72 balls) and the duo added 69 runs in 15.3 overs but were never able to dominate as such on a track that got slower with passage of time.
Kohli's first boundary came in his 21st delivery, a pull shot off Agar and two balls later of Tamil Nadu he hit a regal six off Agar over extra cover.
Rahul's first boundary came in his 45th ball when he hit Zampa over his head for a four. Next over, Starc fired from wide off crease but the length ball was hit for a straight six.
However a ball fired by Zampa into the blockhole was dug-out by Rahul but Abbot timed his jump well to hold onto it at the boundary.
Then it was the turn of Agar to quickly send back Kohli and the out-of-form Suryakumar Yadav (0) for his third first-ball duck in as many games.
From 146 for 2, India had slumped to 185 for 6 when Pandya and Jadeja joined forces with the Australian close-in fielders making it infinitely difficult.
But Pandya, however, maintained a 100-plus strike-rate despite tight bowling by the opposition.
Earlier, a fine opening spell by Pandya and a probing effort by Kuldeep Yadav put a tight leash around the Australian batters before its tail wagged considerably to take the visitors to a fighting 269 all out in 49 overs after opting to bat first.
The five wickets added 131 to keep Australia in the game.
While Pandya (3/44 in 8 overs) shaved off the top half, Kuldeep's (3/56 in 10 overs) rhythm and guile on a helpful Chennai track was the biggest takeaway as the latter's delivery to remove Carey was the ball of the series.
It was a classical left-arm wrist spinner's leg-break that beat the southpaw all ends up and Kuldeep's ecstacy was there to be seen.
India were in control after pegging Australia back at 138 for 5 but a 58-run stand between Carey and Marcus Stoinis for the sixth wicket and 42 for the eighth wicket between Sean Abbott (26) and Ashton Agar (17) took them close to 250 while Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa added 22 precious runs for the final wicket.
What looked like a good toss to win for Australia after Mitchell Marsh (47 off 47 balls) and Travis Head (33 off 31 balls) put on 68 for the opening stand didn't seem so as Pandya bowled three different deliveries in his first three overs to completely seize the momentum in favour of the hosts.
David Warner (23 off 31 balls) and Marnus Labuschagne (28 off 45 balls) paid dearly for their indiscreet shot selection off Kuldeep's bowling before Carey (38 off 46 balls) played his first innings of substance on the final day of a long near two-month tour.