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Australia win despite late India fightback

Australia continued their dominance over India by registering a hard-fought 4-wicket win in the second match of the Carlton Mid Triangular Series in Melbourne. Chasing 268, the home side stuttered to the target with an over to spare.

Spurred on Aaron Finch’s 95 and Steven Smith’s 47, Australia never looked like floundering on a pitch that was providing some assistance to the pacers under lights. The opening pair of Finch and David Warner gave the Aussies a brisk start, with Umesh Yadav bearing the brunt of Warner’s early assault. Warner’s breezy knock was eventually cut short by Yadav himself, after the feisty left-hander skied one to Suresh Raina. The new man, Shane Watson, continued in the same vein, punishing some slack Indian bowling. After racing to a 38-ball 41, Watson was cleaned up by Axar Patel with a smart piece of bowling.

Finch and Smith took control of the game soon after Watson’s dismissal, playing the Indian bowlers with effortless ease. A 101-run partnership between the duo virtually put the game beyond India. However, a late surge by the Indian bowlers infused some life into game that was headed in only one direction. Australia went from 215 for 2 to 248 for 6, rekindling India’s hopes of an improbable victory. Those hopes, however, were quashed quickly, with Brad Haddin and James Faulkner leading Australia to a win that was rather comfortable in the end.

Earlier, Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat on a flat deck at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Rohit Sharma top scored for the Indians, blazing his way to a sparkling 139-ball 138, speckled with nine boundaries and four sixes. Sharma was ably assisted by Suresh Raina, who roared back into form with a gutsy knock of 51. But apart from that, there was little cheer for the Indian batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli all failed to make an impression on a pitch that eased out once the new ball lost its shine.

India’s batting charge was curtailed by Mitchell Starc, who took a career best of 6 for 43. The 24-year-old ran through the Indian tail, and also picked up the crucial wickets of Raina and Dhoni. For India, the pace battery was a major disappointment. It did pull things towards the end of the game, but leaked far too many runs with some erratic bowling during the early part of the Australian chase. Patel was the only Indian bowler who conceded less than 5 runs per over. India next play England at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday.

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