With a four-wicket win over India, Australia strengthened their position in the ODI Tri-series. Rohit Sharma's century went in vain as Aaron Finch (96) led Australia's reply after Mitchell Starc had restricted the visitors to 267/8 with a career best 6/43. (Also Read: Sydney Test hit me hard: Suresh Raina)
The hosts lost wickets at regular intervals after the departure of Steven Smith in the 40th over but even as India put up a fight, they trudged across the line with six balls to spare courtesy Brad Haddin and James Faulkner.
Earlier, a sparkling 138 by Rohit helped the visitors to a respectable total after electing to bat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The opener forged a 126-run stand with Suresh Raina to revive the innings after India were left struggling at 59/3. But the pacer’s four wickets in the last six overs did not allow India to accelerate and take advantage of the carefully built innings.
Rohit anchored the Indian innings through the shaky start through to the death overs before returning to the pavilion in the pen-ultimate over.
Shikhar Dhawan’s poor run with the bat continued as he edged an away swinging delivery to the slips in the first over. Ajinkya Rahane who then came to the middle looked comfortable as he timed the ball to find the gaps, but departed nicking one to Haddin off debutant Gurinder Sandhu. Virat Kohli followed him back; top-edging a short Faulkner delivery which went high in the air and captain George Bailey took the catch.
Rohit, however, continued to add to the total at a good pace. The opener, who had earlier whacked Pat Cummins for a straight six, soon sent another one sailing over the leg side. The batsman found an able ally in Raina and the pair resurrected the innings after a wobbly start. The left-hand middle-order bat found the gaps all round the ground to keep the strike rotating while finding the fence at regular intervals. His first boundary was a pull over mid-wicket while he displayed his skill by coming forward to Shane Watson and hit the bowler over the head.
With MS Dhoni, he strung together 52 runs, but the partnership was ended by Starc at a crucial juncture. With over five overs left in the innings, the speedster took the inside edge of Dhoni’s willow and hit the leg-stump to end the blossoming stand. And two balls later, he trapped Axar Patel lbw. The Indian captain’s departure triggered a collapse and plugged the flow of runs not allowing the side to capitalise on the platform laid down by Rohit and Raina.
Opening the bowling for India, Bhuvneshwar, bowled a more disciplined line from one end while Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were punished for 13 and nine runs respectively in their first overs. Shami who had replaced Yadav found his bearings under the captain’s guidance but was erratic and was clobbered by David Warner and Aaron Finch.
Yadav however accounted for Warner after replacing Shami in the tenth over. Looking to pull the pacer the destructive opener only managed to send the ball high in the air and was caught by Raina in the covers. While he followed up with a maiden in his next, Shane Watson scored 10 from Yadav’s following over. As the pair worked to stitch a partnership Watson slammed Ravichandran Ashwin straight to the sight screen for six and overtook the opener. But with the partnership on 64, Watson missed the ball while looking to sweep against Patel and lost his off-stump.
Then with Smith for company, Finch, who was anchoring the hosts innings brought up his watchfully compiled half-century.
While Finch strove to carry the innings forward, he survived on 60 off Bhuvneshwar as the wicketkeeper missed a tough chance behind the stumps after the ball grazed past the opener’s bat.
Raina was introduced into the attack in place of Ashwin and was whacked over the on-side by Finch for six and hit meted out similar treatment in the part-timer’s next. Progressing steadily, the Finch-Smith partnership ate into the deficit. Milking the Indian attack they took the team past the 200-run mark without taking risks.
The Indian bowlers struggled to shift the momentum in India’s favour as Finch and Smith pilfered runs unhurriedly. The partnership reached the three-figure mark as the opener, inched towards his century. Smith who was playing the perfect foil to the opener however returned three runs short of his half-century. Looking to hit the slow bouncer from Shami he departed handing a catch to Ashwin. As is often the case with partnerships, one wicket followed another. In the following over, Yadav forced a thin edge from Finch through to the ‘keeper to send the opener back for 96.
With 49 runs required to win, Bailey joined Maxwell in the middle, but was stumped 11 runs later off an Ashwin delivery going down the leg-side. Couple of deliveries later, Maxwell followed up with a six and four to close in on the target.
Having got a foot in the door, the Indians looked to step-up the pressure by keeping the flow of runs in check even as Maxwell looked to take on the bowlers. With Australia needing 20 off 23 balls, Shami limped off the field after bowling one ball in the over. Bhuvneshwar introduced to complete the over caught Maxwell off his own bowling to the hosts on 248/6.
With wickets falling at regular intervals at the dying stages of the game, the match headed for a tight finish as Faulkner took guard opposite Haddin. And although Patel followed with a good over, Faulkner swept Bhuvneshwar in the next to close in on the target. The pair picked 16 runs off the Bhuvneshwar over to attain the target.
Man of the Match: Mitchell Starc for his 6/43 to set-up match for Australia
India 267/8 in 50 overs (R Sharma 138, S Raina 51, M Starc 6/43) lost to Australia 269/6 in 49 overs (A Finch 96, S Smith 47, U Yadav 2/55) by four wickets.