By Nikhil Bapat
(Eds: Updating with more inputs)
Mumbai, Jan 14 (PTI) Australia gave India a harsh reality check with a 10-wicket hiding in the ODI series opener here on Tuesday, exposing the home team's middle-order frailty and putting to sword its bowling.
Anticipating dew in the evening session, Aaron Finch opted to field. India ended up with a below-par 255 on a decent batting surface after a middle-order failure.
Australia made short work of the target, racing to a resounding victory in 37.4 overs with David Warner (128 not out off 112) and Finch (110 not out off 114) smashing unbeaten centuries, making the Indian attack look rather ordinary.
They simply ran away with chase, sharing 30 boundaries and five sixes between them. Their unbeaten stand was the highest for any wicket against India, who endured their first 10-wicket loss since 2005.
The manner of India's defeat, which came after dominating limited overs series wins against West Indies and Sri Lanka, has left the hosts with plenty to ponder ahead of the second game in Rajkot on Friday. It was also India's fourth straight loss against the Aussies at home.
India made some unmissable changes in their batting combination with Virat Kohli pushing himself down to number four to accommodate specialist openers Shikhar Dhawan (74 off 91) and K L Rahul (47 off 61) in the playing eleven.
Dhawan opened alongside Rohit Sharma while Rahul batted at three, disturbing the combination that India employed successfully after the World Cup in July.
With Kohli (16 off 14) dropping himself down the order, Shreyas Iyer (4), who had shown a lot of promise at number four in recent times, was demoted to five. The entire experiment failed miserably, raising plenty of questions.
"We were totally outplayed in all departments. It's a strong Australian team, if you don't play well, they could hurt you. We saw that with the bat in hand. We didn't get enough runs. I thought we were too respectful at certain phases and it cost us. Can't do that against a team like Australia," said Kohli at the post-match presentation.
Earlier, Dhawan hit a half-century before Australia pulled things back to bowl India out with five balls to spare.
Dhawan looked in great touch during his stay in the middle and in the company of Rahul, shared a second-wicket stand of 121 runs off 136 balls to set the base for India's total. However, India failed to capitalise.
Sent into bat, India were dealt an early blow when they lost Rohit, caught by Warner at mid-off off Mitchell Starc (3/56).
Rahul joined Dhawan at the crease and the duo played fluently without much trouble against a formidable Australian attack.
After adopting a cautious approach initially, Dhawan upped his ante and started to play his shots, while at the same time gave due respect to the good deliveries.
Dhawan showed his class and played all kinds of shots to register his fifty in 66 balls with a single off leg-spinner Adam Zampa (1/53) in the 20th over.
Soon after reaching his fifty, Dhawan got a reprieve when he was dropped by Warner at midwicket off Ashton Agar (1/56).
The two went about their business in style, picking up runs off bad balls before both departed in consecutive overs.
Just three short of his fifty, Rahul gave a straight forward catch to Steve Smith at covers off Agar and then, in the next over, Dhawan was caught by Agar off Pat Cummins (2/44).
While Rahul hit four boundaries during his 61-ball knock, Dhawan's innings was laced with nine fours and one six.
Dropping himself to No. 4, Kohli was in attacking mode from the onset, but didn't last long as Zampa took a sharp catch off his own bowling to dismiss the Indian skipper. It was the fourth time that Zampa got the better of Kohli.
Iyer followed suit when Starc induced an edge an over later and Alex Carey did the rest behind the stumps.
Rishabh Pant (28) and Ravindra Jadeja (25) shared 49 runs for the sixth wicket before the duo perished in consecutive overs as India lost the plot.
Towards the end Kuldeep Yadav (17) and Mohammed Shami (10) struck some useful boundaries.
Pant was hit on the helmet while batting and did not take the field for the second half of the game. Rahul kept wickets in his absence. PTI NRB BS