Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni put Australia to the sword in India as the hosts sealed a 26-run victory in the first one-day international in Chennai.
Hardik Pandya, who has one century and one five-for in professional cricket, continued to make a mockery of conventional selection principles as he single-handedly won India the first ODI of the series. On a pitch with more bounce than an average Indian ODI surface, Pandya’s sensational six-hitting combined with MS Dhoni’s pragmatism to lift India from 87 for 5 to 281, but persistent drizzle converted the 282-run target into a theoretically-easier 164 in 21 overs.
A lengthy rain delay saw Australia’s target revised to 164 in 21 overs, but the tourists struggled to an underpowered 137 for nine.
India opted to bat first and soon found themselves in peril, Nathan Coulter-Nile excelling with the new ball to leave the home team 11 for three. Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey were welcome wickets, but captain Virat Kohli – for a duck, no less – was the real prize.
Marcus Stoinis kept the ball rolling, removing Rohit Sharma (28) and Kedhar Jadhav (40) before the halfway mark, but that brought Dhoni and Pandya together. Pandya took the lead in their 118-run stand, slamming Adam Zampa for three consecutive sixes before the spinner eventually took his costly revenge. Dhoni then sped up the run-rate in the death overs, with support from Bhuveneshwar Kumar (32 no).
The rain had threatened to force an abandonment but after finally retaking the field, with a new T20-style target of 164, Australia buckled.
Five of their top seven were dismissed in single figures with David Warnermustering 25 and Glenn Maxwell counter-punching with 39 from just 18 balls.
Pandya added two scalps to his earlier runs, captain Steve Smith and Travis Head, while Yuzvendra Chahal recorded three for 30 with his leg-breaks, including the wicket of Maxwell which all but ended Australia’s hopes.
All-rounder James Faulkner struck a few late blows to make the margin of defeat more respectable, but even his unbeaten 32 could not set up a close finish. The series continues on Thursday with the second game in Kolkata.