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Carlton Mid Tri-Series – IND vs Aus: Starc, Finch Set Up Second Australia Win

By on January 18, 2015

Australia 6 for 269 (Finch 96) beat India 8 for 267 (Rohit 138, Raina 51, Starc 6-43) by 4 wickets…

On a day when Australia and India each had a dominant opener – Rohit Sharma made 138 and Aaron Finch 96 – the difference between the sides was Mitchell Starc.

For the second consecutive game, Starc broke through in the first over of the match. For the second straight time he was Man of the Match in an Australian win. In Sydney he took four wickets against England; here it was six against India.

Carlton Mid Tri-Series - IND vs Aus: Mitchell Starc

Starc’s 6 for 43 was the second-best return ever in an ODI in Australia, and his efforts cannot be underestimated. Both of Australia’s wins to begin this tri-series have occurred in good conditions for batting.

At the MCG, India chose to bat first and Rohit’s 138 could have been the catalyst for a huge total, but Starc ensured that Suresh Raina’s 51 was the only other contribution of significance.

India finished on 8 for 267, leaving Australia to chase exactly the amount they successfully pursued against South Africa at the same ground in November. That win came with exactly six balls to spare, and James Faulkner at the crease. Remarkably, this victory also came with exactly six balls to spare and Faulkner at the crease. His finishing ability was again on display as he and Brad Haddin took 16 off the 49th over.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the bowler, and had just delivered a wicket-maiden. But in the 49th, Haddin struck one boundary and Faulkner two, including the winning runs, a sweep past fine leg for four. Australia’s four-wicket win was complete.

India’s problem had been a lack of incision from their bowlers earlier, allowing Finch to compile half-century stands with David Warner and Shane Watson, and a 101-run partnership with Steven Smith.

The wickets for India came sporadically. Warner skied a catch off Umesh Yadav for 24, Watson entertained with 41 from 39 balls before he was bowled trying to sweep Akshar Patel, and Smith struck a slower bouncer from Mohammed Shami to midwicket on 47. There was no sense of momentum from India in the field, and Australia easily milked runs through the middle of the chase.

Finch was not required to play the ultra-aggressive game he sometimes does, striking his 96 from 127 deliveries with five fours and two sixes.

He did not always get the ball out of the middle of the bat, but worked it around adequately enough to cause India problems. He edged behind off Yadav with 49 still required off 59 balls, but it would have taken a collapse for Australia to muff their lines.

There nearly was one, as George Bailey was stumped off R Ashwin for 5 and Glenn Maxwell caught and bowled for 20 in Bhuvneshwar’s wicket maiden. But Faulkner and Haddin were good enough to get Australia home from a position of 20 runs needed from 17 balls.

The day had started perfectly for Australia after MS Dhoni chose to bat. Starc had broken through twice in the first over of the match against England in Sydney on Friday and here he again struck in the opening over, albeit only once, when Shikhar Dhawan edged to slip. The total became 2 for 33 when debutant Gurinder Sandhu’s extra bounce had Ajinkya Rahane caught behind.

Virat Kohli was unable to immediately transfer his Test form to the ODI series and top-edged a catch off Faulkner, which left India at 3 for 59. But Rohit and Raina then steadied the innings with a 126-run partnership that carried India out of danger and into a position from which they could have pressed on to a hefty total. Then came Starc’s second wind.

He had Raina caught at mid-on for 51 off 63 deliveries, Dhoni chopped on for 19 and two balls later Patel was lbw for a duck.

Starc completed his five-for by picking up Rohit, caught off a full toss searching for some quick runs in the dying overs, and it was the fourth time Starc had taken an ODI five-for. Only Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath have done that more times for Australia, even though Starc has played only 30 games.

By bowling Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a golden duck next ball, Starc also became the sixth Australian to take at least six wickets in an ODI, and the first to do it in Australia.

His red-ball work over the past year might have been mixed, but with the white ball Starc is approaching unplayable levels. Only Ajit Agarkar has ended an ODI in Australia with better figures than Starc, and then by only one run.

By comparison, Pat Cummins, Faulkner and Sandhu struggled to contain India in quite the same way. Sandhu, who became Australia’s 206th ODI cricketer, bowled with tight lines early but later in the innings was wayward. Rohit enjoyed batting against Sandhu, Faulkner and Cummins, and continued his habit of taking the Australians apart in limited-overs cricket.

His third ODI century against them, and his sixth in total, should confirm his place as India’s opener of choice for the World Cup, a position for which he was preferred in this game to Rahane, who batted at No.3. Rohit was keen to score from the word go, and clubbed Cummins back over the bowler’s head for six in the fourth over, one of four sixes he struck during his innings.

He also picked up nine fours and brought up his century from his 109th delivery; notably Warner at third man was clapping as Rohit celebrated by raising his bat to the crowd. Rohit and Warner had a heated exchange earlier when it appeared the Australians were annoyed that India had taken an overthrow, believing the throw had deflected off Rohit.

Replays could not verify whether the ball had struck Rohit, but could confirm that he was on the end of some angry-looking words from Warner, and the umpire John Ward had to step in. It could not detract from a fine innings from Rohit, who had struggled during the recent Test series.

He scored plenty of runs behind the wicket on both sides and frustrated the Australians by picking the gaps, and every run was cheered by a huge contingent of Indian fans in the crowd of 34,253. Those fans went home unhappy with the result, but pleased with what they saw from Rohit ahead of the World Cup.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo.

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