Melbourne: A lackluster India opened their cricket tri-series campaign on a disappointing note as they slumped to a 65-run defeat against Australia, who yet again exposed the batting chinks of the visitors in a rain-truncated encounter, here today.
Australia recovered from a few early jolts to score 216 for five in their 32 overs and then bundled out the visitors for 151 in 29.4 overs at the flood-lit MCG.
The Indians ‘rested’ out of form Virender Sehwag from the team but the batting woes, that has plagued the side right through the Test series, continued to haunt them in the first match of the tr-series.
Some of the batsmen got good start but could not translate them into big scores.
India were never in the chase and but for young guns Virat Kohli (31) and Rohit Sharma (21) and their 51-run third wicket stand, India’s top order collapsed in a heap to Australian pacemen.
Clint McKay was the most destructive home bowler, taking four wickets for just 20 runs while Mitchell Starc (2/33) and spinner Xavier Doherty (2/36) claimed two wickets each.
It was left-arm paceman Starc who struck early with the scalps of openers Sachin Tendulkar (2) and Gautam Gambhir (5) in his first spell. Bowling full and with the same venom as in Tests, Starc and his new ball partner Ryan Harris came hard at the Indians first up.
Tendulkar was the first one to leave, driving away from his body and being caught brilliantly by a diving Ricky Ponting at point region. Gambhir departed in his now customary fashion, edging a catch behind the stumps to Matthew Wade.
Kohli and Sharma were undeterred and gave glimpses of their promise against a hostile opponent. Both flashed their bats hard and were not afraid to come out of their crease.
They had raised 51 runs off 47 balls when Clint McKay, on his first four balls in the match, sent them packing.
Kohli cut McKay’s second ball most fiercely but Ponting, coming in forward at point, held an amazing catch in front of his face. Two balls later, Sharma held his bat out limply and offered a catch to Wade.
The dye was now cast and it only worsened when Suresh Raina (4) hit one up in the air off debutant Daniel Christian. India were now reeling at 77 for 5 in the 12th over.
The match was now as good as over and overlooked in the melee was Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 29 off 38 balls.
Earlier, Hussey brothers, Mike (45) and David (61), were at the forefront, helped no less by debutant opener Matthew Wade (67), in Australia’s strong total.
Medium-pacer Vinay Kumar had helped with two early wickets in his first spell of five overs and the hosts were tottering at 35 for 2 before the rain spell but over-reliance on spinners cost the visitors dear as 181 runs came off the final 21 overs.
Hussey brothers and their two critical stands were the reasons for Australia’s recovery. First Mike Hussey put on 73 runs off 50 balls for the fourth wicket with Wade and later David Hussey (61) and Daniel Christian (17) stayed put for 62 runs off 32 balls for the sixth wicket.
In between the two Hussey brothers themselves put on 32 runs off 19 balls for the fifth wicket.
While Mike Hussey relied extensively on sweeps to rattle up 45 off 32 balls with four fours, the right-handed David pulled and lofted with gay abandon for his 61 off 30 balls with four fours and three sixes.
Spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravinder Jadeja suffered most from this onslaught. While Ashwin conceded 48 runs from his five overs, Jadeja went for 41 from his 2.4 overs.
The final over of Australian innings was dramatic. Leg-spinner Rahul Sharma had bowled two balls before umpires realized he had already bowled his quota of six overs. Only two could have bowled seven overs and Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar had already done so.
Sharma was instantly removed and the remaining four balls of the innings was sent down by Jadeja—off which he was smashed for two sixes by David Hussey.
At the start, Australian openers were tentative after Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and opted to field in overcast conditions.
The two Kumars, Praveen and Vinay, were spot on with their line and length and pressure gradually started to mount on the openers who were unable to break the shackles.
Warner, usually explosive, had done no better than score 6 off 14 balls when he tried an ugly hoick off Vinay Kumar and an incoming delivery knocked his middle stump back.
Ponting, returning to fold after the Test series ended last month, showed rustiness in his 2 off 12 balls before he played a lifting delivery from Vinay Kumar into the hands of short extra-cover fielder, Suresh Raina.
Vinay Kumar was most impressive for India with 3 for 21 from his seven overs.