A stunning century from Glenn Maxwell guided Australia to a thrilling last-ball victory over India by five wickets in Guwahati on Tuesday, a result that keeps the five-match T20 series alive.
The Baggy Greens had been set a daunting target after the hosts posted 222-3 in their innings, which saw Ruturaj Gaikwad (123 not out) crack his maiden international century.
Having lost the opening two games of a series that followed hot-on-the-heels of their ODI World Cup final win against the same opposition, Australia seemed to be sliding to a potential series clean sweep of defeats.
Opener Aaron Hardie (16) was first to fall with Travis Head – back in the team following his match-winning century in the final at Narendra Modi Stadium – and Josh Inglis falling in the space of four balls, for 35 and 10 respectively.
Marcus Stoinis (17) and Tim David (first-ball duck) were also out cheaply but that brought captain Matthew Wade to the crease alongside Maxwell, who scored an unforgettable century against Afghanistan in the World Cup.
The pair feasted on the Indian attack finding the boundary at will even when Australia needed 43 off 12 balls, 21 off six, and two off the last ball. Maxwell hit the last four balls for 18, drilling Prasidh Krishna down the ground at the finish to silence the home crowd.
“You don't get much better than that,” said Wade. “It was always going to take our best and probably the best player of T20 cricket we have. I wouldn't say 'confident' was on my mind, but we knew here we can bat in chases.
“We really needed this win and a lot of guys are heading home so a chance for the younger ones and hopefully we can take it to the decider with another win.”
Jason Behrendorff struck first to remove in-form Yashasvi Jaiswal, caught behind for six, and fellow quick Kane Richardson had Ishan Kishan out for a duck.
Captain Suryakumar Yadav fell after a 29-ball 39 to Hardie, but Gaikwad stood firm to hit back in a partnership with Tilak Varma, who hit 31.
Gaikwad struck an unbeaten 123 off 57 balls and put on 141 runs with Varma to take the attack to the opposition bowlers after India lost two early wickets.
The opener, who hit 58 in the previous game, reached his 100 off 52 balls and hammered three sixes and two fours in a 30-run final over.
The two teams collide again in Raipur on Friday before the final game two days later in Bangalore.
Seven of the Australia squad who won the 50-over World Cup remained in India for the T20 series that started four days after the November 19 final.
With a busy home summer of cricket looming, including Test series against Pakistan and the West Indies, regular captain Pat Cummins acknowledged the burden on the players, some of whom have been playing in India since September.
“They're humans, they're not robots,” he told reporters at Sydney Cricket Ground earlier on Tuesday. “Putting everything into a World Cup and then playing a couple of days later – I probably don't begrudge them if they're not at 100 per cent.
“These are still games for Australia and it's great that these tours do provide opportunities for some of the younger guys, or guys who might not be in the first eleven … these are important tours and you can get a lot out of them.”