All-rounder Hardik Pandya starred with the bat and ball to help India defeat Australia by 26 runs in the rain-hit opening one-day international in Chennai on Sunday.
Chasing a revised target of 164 in 21 overs, the visitors were frustrated by wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav who shared five wickets between them. They ended on 137-9.
But it was Pandya’s 66-ball 83 and two wickets that proved decisive in India taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Pandya put on a gritty 118-run sixth-wicket stand with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who made 79, to lift India from a precarious 87-5 after electing to bat first.
In reply, the visitors had to wait for two hours to start their shortened chase as constant drizzle threatened to spoil the contest.
Pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya combined to hurt Australia’s hopes of chasing a tricky target with three early strikes including skipper Steve Smith for one.
Bumrah bowled debutant opener Hilton Cartwright for one. He then took a stunning high catch at short fine-leg to send Smith trudging back to the pavilion off Pandya.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav also joined the party after getting star opener David Warner caught behind for 25 as Australia’s innings fell apart.
Glenn Maxwell tried to raise Australia’s hopes with his 18-ball 39, including three fours and four sixes, but Yuzvendra Chahal cut short the batsman’s blitz.
Leg-spinner Chahal ended with three wickets in his five overs. Pandya and Yadav took two each.
Earlier Australian fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile had made an impact with three wickets including the prized scalp of Virat Kohli for nought.
Coulter-Nile, who returned after a string of injuries that kept him out since June 2016, put India in early trouble at 11-3.
Rohit Sharma, who made 28, and Kedar Jadhav, who scored 40, tried to rebuild with their 53-run partnership before Marcus Stoinis sent the two batsmen back in the pavilion.
Dhoni, who has captained the successful Chennai franchise in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, then made his innings count along with Pandya for company.
The duo thwarted the Australian bowling with some stubborn batting before Pandya let loose to take the attack to the opposition.
Pandya took a special liking to Adam Zampa’s leg-spin as he smashed the bowler for a four and three successive sixes in an over to bring up his third ODI fifty.
Zampa though did get Pandya out for his only wicket in the innings but the bowler’s 10 overs cost his side 66 runs.
Dhoni soon took over to blast some vital runs in the last five overs as he added 72 runs with number-eight Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished unbeaten on 32.
The two teams now head to Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens for the second ODI on Thursday.—AFP