Ben Hilfenhaus and Brett Lee splintered India to return Australia to the top of the table with a 110-run victory that reaped a bonus point at the Gabba. On a day when Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar both glimpsed their mortality in the limited-overs game, Australia's 5 for 288 proved far too tall a target for India's batsmen, who looked as uncomfortable as ever when faced by Brisbane's bounce and a home side recovering from two straight losses.
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Making use of a hard, fast pitch and the early swing offered by the new ball, Lee and Hilfenhaus nipped out four wickets between them to slide India to 4 for 36, and had snared eight by the end of the night. Hilfenhaus was playing his first ODI since November 2009, in place of the ill Clint McKay, and made a strong case for his retention by moving the ball at good pace on a disciplined line to take five wickets for the first time. He had an ideal counterpoint in Lee, who offered slippery pace and plenty of aggression.
Tendulkar played a particularly fretful innings, struck on the helmet by Lee, caught at third man off Hilfenhaus. Soon after, Kohli lingered unhappily at the crease after video evidence was used to confirm he had been caught at slip by David Hussey. MS Dhoni's innings proved merely a parting shot as the match faded out.
Ponting won the toss in what is expected to be his last match in charge before Michael Clarke returns. David Warner made a wasteful exit for a swift 43, Ponting struggled badly for placement and occupied 26 balls for 7, and Matthew Wade fought his way to 45 only to give it up with a tame return catch.
Peter Forrest and Michael Hussey righted the ship with a century partnership, but Christian and David Hussey made equally vital contributions with a stand of 65 in the final six overs. Michael Hussey's innings might have been over on 1, when MS Dhoni appealed for a stumping. Replays showed Hussey may have had some of his back foot safely behind the line, and there was some surprise when the red "out" signal flashed on the big screen. However Hussey's trudge off the field was swiftly aborted by the umpires, as it emerged that the wrong verdict from the third umpire Bruce Oxenford had somehow been relayed.
Needing close to six runs per over, India needed a strong start, but were unlikely to get one from the moment Lee found a way past Gautam Gambhir. In the Tests Gambhir had often been out fencing at deliveries going across him, but Lee's delivery gave him little choice, starting to bend in before seaming the other way off the track to clip the outside edge.
Tendulkar's unhappy tour gained another chapter of discontent against the new ball. Struck a hefty blow on the head by a Lee bouncer, he struggled to lay a bat on Hilfenhaus' away swing, and when he did connect, the ball floated down to Xavier Doherty, who had dropped Kohli the ball before. Tendulkar seems even further away from the barrier of 100 international centuries than he had been at the start of the summer.
Not for the first time, Kohli had looked distracted by crowd chants in the field, and he carried that anger with him to the crease. He watched Rohit Sharma's undoing, waving his bat at Lee's bounce and away movement, then took his dismissal for 12, via Hussey's low catch, as something approaching a personal slight. He waited for some time after the verdict to leave the field.
Raina sallied forth to deposit Mitchell Starc into the stands. However Christian was delivering a neat spell, and he gained the break with a delivery running across Raina that caught a nick.
Dhoni went on to 56 as the required rate climbed, but his dismissal, pulling Hilfenhaus to midwicket, signalled the end of formal resistance.
During the Australian innings, Wade and Warner found the early going slow against tight bowling from Vinay Kumar and Zaheer Khan. Wade enjoyed an escape off the second ball of the match, edging Zaheer towards Tendulkar at first slip, only for Rohit to dive across from second and knock the ball away from the man best placed to catch it. Warner began to look fluent, but he was to curse himself with some venom when he chipped the last ball of the 13th over to a waiting midwicket.
The ensuing passage was dominated by Ponting's struggles. He made a deliberate start, defending staunchly against Raina's modest offerings, then found himself struggling to find the boundaries to counterbalance this early conservatism. One charge down the wicket resulted in an edge to third man, and Ponting was still searching for momentum when he picked up a Zaheer delivery and sent it looping into deep midwicket's hands. His scores for the series now read 2, 1, 6, 2 and 7.
Hussey and Forrest fought with determination and intelligence, finding the odd boundary but mainly keeping the innings going with their running between the wickets. Apart from his stumping reprieve, Hussey was also dropped twice, while Forrest endured numerous periods without free-scoring but lifted his rate as he went.
Their stand was worth 100 when Hussey fell to a combination of urgency and fatigue, swinging Irfan into the deep, and in the same over Forrest did likewise, ending another innings of promise by the prospective Test batsman. David Hussey and Christian added some clean blows to swell the total in the final overs, distorting Vinay's figures by taking his last over for 18 runs. Another 15 were spirited away from the last, leaving India with a chase that proved well beyond their means.