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Australia beats India by 4 wickets in tri-series nailbiter

January 18, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Aaron Finch made 96 to lead Australia to a four-wicket win over India Sunday in a tri-series one-day cricket match shaped by the innings of two opening batsmen.

Rohit Sharma earlier made 138, batting for 49 overs and adding 126 with Suresh Raina, to steer India to 267-8 as it batted first at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after winning the toss.

Mitchell Starc took a career-best 6-43 to limit India.

Australia’s innings developed along strikingly similar lines: Finch opened and played the anchor, sharing a 101-run third-wicket partnership with Steve Smith that carried Australia within sight of victory.

Finch and Smith were out within three balls of each other around the 40th over and Australia lost two more wickets before it reached its target with an over to spare.

Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (13 not out) and skilled finisher James Faulkner (9 not out) stopped the slide and saw Australia to its second-straight tri-series victory after its three wicket win over England in the opening match Friday.

The win was less convincing than it should have been, given the platform provided by Finch and Smith. Smith was out for 47 when Australia was 216-3 and Finch three balls later when it was 219-4, still needing 49 runs with almost 10 overs remaining.

But when George Bailey was out for 5 and Glenn Maxwell for 20, Australia was 248-6, 21 short of victory with four wickets left and 21 balls to come. There was a sudden sense of anxiety and India captain M.S. Dhoni became more urgent in his field placings and in his instructions to his bowlers.

Australia needed 20 runs with four overs remaining when there was another dramatic twist. Mohammed Shami, whose first four overs cost 22 but who had come back strongly, bowled the first ball of the 47th over, fell to the ground in pain and limped off with a knee injury.

Dhoni was forced to call on Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bowl the remaining five balls of the over, disrupting his planned use of his bowlers at the death.

Australia came to the last two overs needing 15 runs and with Faulkner and Haddin struggling to find the boundary. Faulkner took six balls to get off the mark but dismissed the seventh ball behind square leg for four leaving Australia needing 10 runs from 10 balls.

Haddin slammed the third ball of the 49th over past extra cover for four to leave Australia needing four runs from eight balls. A single gave Faulkner the strike and he squirted the next ball past fine leg for the boundary that ended Australia’s chase.

“It got a bit tight there at the end,” Faulkner said. “It’s good to get a win and 2-0 in a tournament is a good start.

“We did make tough work of it the last five, six or seven overs but we still had Mitchell Starc and a lot of batting to come. It’s just good to get a win over India, they’re such tough opposition.”

Earlier, Sharma opened the India innings and endured the early loss of Shikhar Dhawan (2), Ajinkya Rahane (12) and Virat Kohli (9) before finding in Raina one partner who was as able as he was to defy the Australia attack.

Raina fell for 51 — his 33rd ODI half century — shortly before Sharma progressed to his sixth century, in the 37th over, from 109 balls.

India had been 59-3 in the over when Raina came to the wicket and joined Sharma, who was then on 29, and the pair stayed together through 22.1 overs during which India scored at a rate of just under six runs per over.

Raina reached his half century from 61 balls with six fours. Sharma was able to hit down the ground to good effect but also showed his outstanding aptitude to punish the short ball.

Starc, who took two wickets in the first over of Australia’s opening tri-series match against England to set up their three-wicket win — and to be named Man of the Match — removed Dhawan with the fifth ball of his first over Sunday. He then returned to dismiss Raina with the last ball of the 35th over — the first of a batting powerplay in which India scored 21-1.

Starc then removed Dhoni and Akshar Patel (0) within two balls of each other in the 45th over and Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar with consecutive balls in the 49th over.

Australia took almost four hours to bowl its 50 overs and captain George Bailey may face a one-match suspension for his second over-rate violation in three months. He was fined when Australia also failed to bowl 50 overs in the alloted time in a match against South Africa in November.

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