New Delhi: Contrasting half-centuries by Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni were followed by a spin-out job by Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, which enabled India to script a 26-run (D/L) win in the rain-affected first ODI against Australia in Chennai on Sunday.
After India scored 281/7 – recovering from 11/3, 64/4 and 87/5, rain delayed the Australian reply by more than two hours. Pandya (83 off 66) and Dhoni (79 off 88) added 118 runs for the sixth wicket to revive Indian innings.
The rain-delay brought D/L method into play and Australia’s target was adjusted to 164 in 21 overs.
But other than Glenn Maxwell’s blitz of 39 off 18, none of the other top-order Australian batsmen fired before their innings ended at 137/9.
Chahal was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 3/30. Yadav bowled a spell of 2/33. Pandya followed his batting heroics with 2/28 to win the Man-of-the-Match award. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah picked one wicket each.
Australia were reduced to 29/3 with debutant opener Hilton Cartwright (1), Smith and Head back in the pavilion. Only three of the visiting batsmen could manage to reach double figures.
Bumrah drew first blood by cleaning up Cartwright’s off-stump before Pandya joined the party. After surviving a leg before scare, Smith mistimed the next delivery and ended up top-edging it high in the air which Bumrah brilliantly pouched at short fine. In no time, Head, too, was back after feathering a nick to Dhoni.
Seasoned opener David Warner (25 off 28) offered some resistance but the introduction of chinaman Yadav brought his downfall, comfortably caught behind by Dhoni.
Reduced to 35/4, the visitors were left high and dry until the big-hitting Maxwell arrived and milked 22 runs from Kuldeep’s third over, including three consecutive sixes.
Maxwell managed to bring the mounting required run-rate down but legspinner Chahal’s flighted delivery did the trick for India, as the Australian holed one to Manish Pandey at long on.
Kuldeep immediately got rid of the next man, Marcus Stionis (3) with a floater which substitute fielder Ravindra Jadeja comfortably latched on at deep mid-wicket.
Tottering at 76/6, all-rounder James Faulkner (32 from 25) played a lone hand but kept losing his partners as Matthew Wade (9), Pat Cummins (9) and Coulter-Nile (2) failed to rise to the occasion.
Earlier, the 23-year-old Pandya meted out special treatment to Adam Zampa, taking the young legspinner to the cleaners on three consecutive occasions to get to his third ODI fifty off 48 balls before falling to the same bowler, later in the innings.
Dhoni, at the other end, provided stability with a patient 75-ball 50 but more importantly carried on after the loss of Pandya to forge another healthy 72-run seventh wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (32 off 30).
India, too, were off to a forgettable start with three of the top four batsmen back in the hut with only 11 runs on the board.
Coulter-Nile made a stunning comeback to 50-over cricket by claiming opener Ajinkya Rahane (5), and skipper Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey (both for duck) to leave the scorecard reading 11/3.
India opener Rohit Sharma (28) and Kedar Jadhav (40) brought some solidity with a 53-run fourth wicket stand before the last recognised batting duo of Dhoni and Pandya got their act together to deliver the needed stability.
During his match-winning knock, Dhoni also crossed the landmark of scoring hundred international half-centuries.
(With IANS inputs)