Australia overcame more late jitters to clinch an encouraging four-wicket win over India with one over remaining at the MCG, but the result – and the brilliant contributions of Mitchell Starc and Aaron Finch – were overshadowed by an ugly confrontation between David Warner and Indian batsmen Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina.
India got off to a rocky start, losing Dhawan (2), Rahane (12) and Kohli (9) cheaply to be 3/59, before Sharma and Raina put on a magnificent 126 for the fourth wicket.
But weeks of ill feeling quickly bubbled to the surface when the duo ran on an overthrow after Warner’s return had seemingly clipped Sharma – going against one of cricket’s unwritten agreements.
Warner confronted Sharma in a heated exchange that soon involved Raina, the umpires and a number of Australian players. But the tempestuous Warner may have a case to answer after apparently saying to Sharma, ‘speak English’.
Raina was eventually out for 51, while Sharma put the spat to one side to finish with a masterful 138 off 139 balls, including nine fours and four sixes.
But Starc, who took the initial wicket of Dhawan, ripped through the Indians to finish with 6/43. After breaking the Sharma-Raina partnership, he got rid of captain MS Dhoni and Axar Patel in the 45th over, and claimed Sharma and Bhuneshwar Kumar in consecutive balls in the 49th as India limped to a subpar 8/267.
A pumped-up Raina caught Warner off Umar Yadav’s bowling for 24, before Shane Watson (41) and Steve Smith (47) made handy contributions supporting Aaron Finch, who made a sparkling 96 before becoming the fourth wicket to fall with the score at 219 in the 41st over.
The hosts were coasting, but the dismissals of captain George Bailey (5) and Glenn Maxwell (20) put the brakes on and an almighty choke was beginning to materialise. All of a sudden needing more than a run a ball heading into the final couple of overs, Brad Haddin (13 not out) and James Faulkner (9 not out) saw Australia through to victory with six balls remaining.
Stud of the day
After taking four wickets two days earlier against England, Starc put his hand up to be a World Cup spearhead with an outstanding six-wicket haul – the first time an Australia has taken six wickets in a home ODI.
Raina’s miscue to be caught at mid-on slowed India’s roll, but Dhoni chopping on to Starc sparked a late-order collapse when the tourists were setting to launch for a 280-290 score.
England and India face off for a much-needed confidence boost in Brisbane on Tuesday, while Australia take on England again on Friday in Hobart.
India has not won an ODI batting first in Australia since 1980, now losing on all six occasions they have batted first here since.