Melbourne: Australia's mix of youth and experience worked to great effect at the MCG, where the debutant Matthew Wade scored an impressive half-century to set up a 65-run victory over India. The selectors had consciously chosen a squad that blended fresh faces with veterans and while Wade top-scored, David Hussey's brisk fifty, a fast 45 from Michael Hussey and a pair of blinding catches from Ricky Ponting were key factors in the win.
The rain-affected clash was reduced to 32 overs a side. Australia pushed their score up to 5 for 216 after a shaky start and the total remained unchanged under Duckworth-Lewis, but it was the sort of target India should have felt was achievable. But two early wickets to Mitchell Starc, followed by a pair of strikes in Clint McKay's first over left India expecting too much of MS Dhoni and the lower order.
In the end, India were dismissed for 151 in the 30th over in the first match of the Commonwealth Bank Series. The last wicket came when Praveen Kumar pulled to long-on to give McKay figures of 4 for 20 after he also had Ravindra Jadeja caught in the deep. Xavier Doherty had picked up Rahul Sharma and Dhoni, who holed out to long-off for 29.
But the highlight in the late stages was Daniel Christian's run-out of R Ashwin, his sliding work in the deep followed by a well-directed throw as the batsmen attempted a third. It was an indication of they way Australia outfielded India, who gave away overthrows and lacked the sharpness they displayed in Friday's T20. It also continued a good debut for Christian, who had also had Suresh Raina caught for 4.
Things didn't start well for India, who had rested Virender Sehwag. In the second over of the chase Sachin Tendulkar, on 2, chased a ball angled across him from Starc and drove in the direction of point, where Ponting dived low and to his right to take a wonderful catch. Starc added a second wicket in his next over when Gautam Gambhir, surprised by extra bounce, edged behind for 5.
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma combined for a 51-run stand that featured some classy shots, including a drive from Rohit off Ryan Harris that nearly cleared the cover boundary. But McKay's twin strikes ended any realistic hope India had. He had Kohli for 31, another super catch from Ponting at point as a fierce cut flew straight towards his face, and Rohit (21) edged behind two balls later.
From there, it was all Australia. It didn't look like being that way when they trudged off in the rain at 2 for 35 after 11 overs, having been sent in by Dhoni. Despite a few false starts from the groundstaff trying to remove the covers it turned into a long delay as the showers kept returning. And the rain came at the wrong time for Australia, after Wade had just launched Praveen Kumar over long-on for six and then cut him for four more.
Although it took Wade a little while to get set again after the resumption, he soon found his touch and showed he is comfortable at this level. Brad Haddin has been rested for the first three games but it would take a brave selection panel to dump Wade later in the series. He brought up his half-century with a short single dropped into the leg side off his 55th delivery and eventually played on when he tried to pull Rahul Sharma's quicker legspinner.
His 67 left him sixth on the list of highest scores by an Australian ODI debutant, behind Phil Jaques, Shaun Marsh, Kepler Wessels, Mark Cosgrove and Michael Slater. And his 73-run stand with Michael Hussey came at better than eight an over, the latter the aggressor having been promoted to No.5. Michael Hussey was in fine touch, sweeping boundaries both square and fine, and he raced to 45 from 32 balls before he pulled Vinay Kumar to deep square leg.
Fortunately for Australia, David Hussey scored even quicker than his brother, a pulled six off R Ashwin and a searing drive through extra cover for four off Vinay among his highlights. He also helped Australia take 19 off the final over as confusion spread on the field; the rain delay meant only two bowlers could bowl seven overs, and Rahul began the over without the umpires realising that he would be the third.
He was allowed to bowl two balls before the mistake was noticed, and Jadeja continued the over to poor effect for India. David Hussey brought up his half-century from his 28th delivery with a six over midwicket off Jadeja, and struck another six from the final ball, a free-hit thanks to Jadeja's no-ball from the previous delivery. David Hussey finished on 61 from 30 balls and Christian was on 17.
It was a strong finish from Australia after their shaky start. A day after he was bought for $1 million by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL auction, Vinay showed his limited-overs talent by getting rid of David Warner and Ponting early. Warner had been tied down and he tried to thump Vinay out of the ground, but the angle from around the wicket allowed the ball to sneak in through the gate to bowl Warner for 6 from 14 balls.
Vinay followed up with Ponting who was caught at cover trying to crunch a drive through the gap for 2 from 12 deliveries. After the rain delay the Australians soon lost Michael Clarke, who skied a catch to deep midwicket off the bowling of Rohit for 10 from 21, and at that stage India were in charge with Australia at 3 for 49.
But through their mix of youth - Wade, Christian, Starc - and experience - the Hussey brothers and Ponting - Australia regained control. John Inverarity's panel could hardly have hoped for better.