Australia claimed victory by 72 runs in Sunday’s first ODI against India at Pune, thanks largely to two masterful half-centuries from George Bailey and Aaron Finch.
An opening partnership of 110 between Phillip Hughes and Finch laid the foundation for Australia’s innings of 304 for eight.
The latter was eventually dismissed for 72, but Bailey took charge to post the day’s top score (85), and there was a late kick from Australia’s tail as they set India a daunting target of 305 to win.
Virat Kohli batted admirably in India’s reply, scoring 61 off 85 balls, but hope departed with his wicket when Shane Watson trapped him LBW. They were eventually bowled out for 232.
On a slow pitch, Australia’s effort with the bat—right down to the tail—was impressive. Finch, who shot to prominence with his recent world record T20 knock of 156 off 63 balls against England, showed he has a calmer side as the tourists got off to a slow start, reaching 14 off six overs.
He eventually opened up to smash three sixes, but when Hughes and Watson departed in quick succession, Finch soon followed to leave Australia in danger of wasting their superb start at 146 for three.
Bailey was the steady hand—largely ignoring anything outside the off stump—as he registered 10 fours in his innings of 85 from 82 balls. However, wickets fell regularly around him and, when Bailey departed, he left his side on 264 for seven.
Australia still had life left in them and hit 38 off the final three overs. Vinay Kumar was most expensive, conceding 68 runs from nine overs, as James Faulkner hit 27 off 22 balls before Clint McKay claimed 11 off four deliveries.
India’s response did not start well, losing Shikhar Dhawan with only 26 on the board. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina then both had starts, but fell disappointingly short of half-centuries as Australia disturbed their flow with some short stuff.
Once Yuvraj Singh—recent hero of the T20 win at Rajkot—departed for seven, it was clear Kohli had become the glue of the India innings. He clipped half a dozen fours in a measured 61, but then got trapped by Watson—no doubt expecting another short delivery.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni now carried his side’s hopes, but with 12 overs remaining, the required rate stood at over 10 runs and over. Faulkner, who earlier forced his own teammate Brad Haddin off the field with an accidental eye poke, was the scourge of the Indian batsmen with three wickets.
Dhoni's dismissal was emphatic—bowled by McKay—and it was the blow that killed any lingering hope of a fightback.