Richardson turns tables on India in morale-boosting win for Australia

A masterful century from Indian maestro Rohit Sharma was not enough to get India over the line as Australia’s quicks successfully defended 288 thanks to a career-best four-wicket haul from Jhye Richardson.

Sharma’s 133 off 129 balls, his 22nd ODI hundred, was the glue to India’s chase but with MS Dhoni’s 51 the only other reasonable means of support, the Australians’ consistency from No.3 to No.6 with the bat was justly reflected in the final 34-run margin of victory.

Fabulous spell: Jhye Richardson celebrates after taking the wicket of Ambati Rayudu.Credit:AAP

Taking 109 off the last 10 overs was always going to be an almighty task for the tourists and it proved to be just that as Australia began 2019 in superb fashion to take a 1-0 series lead heading into Tuesday’s second match at the Adelaide Oval.

Richardson finished with his best ODI figures of 4-26 off 10 overs and bowled with impressive pace and vigour.

Half-centuries from Usman Khawaja (59), Shaun Marsh (54) and Peter Handscomb (73), as well as an equally important 47 off 43 balls from Marcus Stoinis at the end, propelled Australia to a defendable total of 5-288 on a flat SCG track.

Before Saturday, India had fallen short just twice in their last 16 matches when batting second. Mowing down totals, big or small, has become a trademark of this Indian team.

Lone hand: Rohit Sharma hits over the top during his century at the SCG.Credit:AAP

The reality is there is nothing daunting anymore about a run chase of 289. In 1986, perhaps, but looking past the magnificent retro kits worn by the Australians on Saturday from that era, it was a very attainable score.

By the halfway mark of the chase, India, three wickets down at this stage, had not even cracked triple figures. While Dhoni had a strike rate to rival an NRL coach’s winning percentage, his partner, Sharma, kept ticking the scoreboard over.

The 100-run stand came up and the pendulum began to swing. Indian cheers grew louder and flags flew higher as a pink sky beamed over the Members Pavilion and 37,556 engrossed spectators.

Then, the defining moment of the match ensued as Dhoni was adjudged lbw leg stump.

Change of pace: Shaun Marsh enjoys a spread field to make some runs against India at the SCG.Credit:AAP

From that moment, India could not keep up with the required run rate and took risks that did not pay off against Australia's composed seamers.

Australia’s start with the ball could not have been better. Last week, on the next pitch over, the toilers in the Test team took 317 balls to snare India’s first three wickets. This time, the visitors were 3-4 after 23 deliveries and understandably shell-shocked.

Shikhar Dhawan’s front pad was all but blown off first ball by Behrendorff before Virat Kohli (3) clipped one to Marcus Stoinis positioned just in front of square. Richardson’s fabulous spell continued as he trapped Ambati Rayudu in front for a duck to put Australia in the box seat, despite having plenty of work to do.

The spread of excellent performances, with bat and ball, will please coach Justin Langer. After all, he doesn't like being grumpy.

Shaun Marsh's and Peter Handscomb’s time in the middle during their half-centuries would have brushed away the disappointment of their Test axings, while Usman Khawaja’s composed knock at No.3 has rammed home that he is certainly valuable in white-ball formats at international level.

His dropped catch in the deep, however, when the result was all but assured, was certainly a surprise and put an asterisk on what was overall an excellent performance in the field.

Although Aaron Finch (6) and Alex Carey (24) did not begin their new opening partnership in the most profitable fashion, winning games of cricket is pure gold at the moment for this team.

That Glenn Maxwell was unable to unleash at the end of Australia’s innings coming in at No.7 quickly became irrelevant as players warmly embraced each other, knowing that after a tough summer this win was as important as the one in Adelaide Oval in early November.

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