India made sure they didn’t face a series whitewash at the hands of rivals Pakistan with a nervy ten-run win in a low scoring thriller at the chilly Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in the final ODI international.
A victory for India looked very unlikely when their batting line up crumbled against Pakistan’s versatile bowling attack.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and debutant Shami Ahmed bowled economically however, Ishant Sharma finished with the pick of the figures by taking three wickets.
Having a target of 167 to defend, it was largely down to skipper MS Dhoni as he continued his good batting form with 36 from 55 balls in India’s final innings of the series.
India lost three early wickets to the pace and swing of Junaid Khan and Mohammed Irfan. Left arm paceman Irfan dismissed openers Ajinkiya Rahane and Gautam Ghambhir with only 29 runs on the scoreboard and Junaid had Virat Kohli caught at slip by Younis Khan for five.
The Pakistani spinners continued to cause India problems, Hafeez bowled out Yuvraj Singh for 23 with an excellent delivery leaving India on 63-4.
Suresh Raina scored 31 helping add 48 runs for the fifth wicket before becoming Saeed Ajmal’s first victim as he was trapped lbw and the spin maestro was soon on a hat-trick when he removed Ravi Ashwin for a golden duck.
With India teetering on 111-6 in the 29th over, Dhoni immediately launched Hafeez for a maximum over deep midwicket and in a later over he hit another six off the opener down the ground.
Dhoni was finally out for the first time in the series; Umar Gul had him caught at point by Umar Akmal in the 35th over.
Ajmal took the final three wickets to claim his best figures in one-day cricket with 5-24 as Ravindra Jadeja was last man out caught in the deep for 27 meaning India were all out for 167 inside 43.4 overs.
Ahmed began by bowling two maiden overs in Pakistan’s chase and Kumar dismissed Kamran Akmal lbw and bowled Younis with an inswinging delivery leaving Pakistan reeling on 14-2.
Nasir Jamshed was coming into this match off the back of two hundreds but fell cheaply for 27, Ashwin catching him on the pads when he was attempting a sweep ending his 48 run partnership with Misbah-Ul-Haq.
Misbah continued the repair work with Umar Akmal as the latter shared a 52 run stand, the skipper soon followed Jamshed back to the pavilion for a steady 39 off 82 balls leaving Pakistan on 113-4 in difficult batting conditions.
Umar Akmal played some delightful shots with Misbah at the crease, driving and sweeping Ashwin for two consecutive deliveries.
India received a lucky break when Shoaib Malik was adjusted lbw off Ishant though he was hit outside line and Umar charged Ravindra Jadeja too early and was stumped.
Only Hafeez batting at no seven because of an injury stood between India and victory. He did his best, clobbering Ishant for two fours to leave Pakistan needing 11 from eight balls.
However, he attempted another boundary but hit the seamer straight to Yuvraj at mid-wicket giving India the win.
Any immediate anguish Pakistan felt vanished as their players celebrated a 2-1 series triumph over fiercest rivals India in their own back yard.
Pakistan have a tough tour next to South Africa starting in February and India will finish the matchup with England from earlier in the winter, by playing a five-match ODI series starting on 11th January.