Australia have weathered a Virat Kohli batting masterclass to record a 12-run victory over India in their Twenty20 series finale at the SCG, where a boisterous crowd of 30,436 went home thoroughly entertained.
Kohli threatened to deliver his first T20 ton for India and a 3-0 series victory but legspinner Mitch Swepson, who grabbed 3-23 from his four overs, helped the hosts bank a consolatory win ahead of the four-Test series.
Matthew Wade (80) and Glenn Maxwell (54) marched Australia to 5-186, with returning skipper Aaron Finch out for a second-ball duck after losing the toss.
A bedazzling 85 from India’s skipper had spectators, most of which donned blue and screamed his name, in awe during the first major sporting event since the NSW government relaxed restrictions on spectators.
Kohli, with the exception of bristling at the odd umpiring decision and cursing his inability to pick a gap, never panicked as the wickets tumbled and the required run-rate grew.
India’s victory equation was 43 runs from 17 balls when Adam Zampa removed in-form slugger Hardik Pandya for 20.
It wasn’t until Kohli departed the following over, victim of one of two fine catches that second-gamer Daniel Sams snaffled, that Finch breathed a little easier.
“We had a bit too much to do in the end,” Kohli said.
“This series win is a nice little asterisk for us, finishing the limited-overs leg on a high.”
Finch praised the character and courage of Swepson and Zampa, adding he was proud of the squad.
“We were so close in the first two T20s,” Finch said.
Kohli wasn’t without luck.
Steve Smith lost the ball in the lights and put down a regulation catch in the deep when Kohli was on nine, then later tried to make amends with a dramatic leap on the rope that denied the same batsman a certain six.
Maxwell missed a tight run-out chance when Kohli was on two.
Kohli nonetheless showed the sort of fluent form that suggests he is ready to deliver something special in the pink-ball Test that starts on December 17 and will be his final match of the tour.
There were also signs of the 32-year-old’s emotive passion, such as when he was denied a key review that came when Wade was on 50.
Umpires Rod Tucker and Gerard Abood initially accepted India’s belated referral of an lbw shout despite the fact a replay had flashed on the scoreboard and the mandated 15-second period for consideration had expired.
Wade, who would have been given his marching orders if the review proceeded, immediately objected.
“Referred it!? It’s on the big screen,” Wade argued.
Third umpire Paul Wilson quickly told his on-field colleagues that “it’s a null and void review”.
Kohli had a long chat with Tucker and Abood then shook his head as he walked away.
Kohli’s mood would not have improved as he burned both reviews trying to remove Maxwell, who benefited from a no-ball reprieve on 19 then was dropped on 38 and 53.