A year after he had gone back home from Brisbane, midway during the Ashes tour, Steven Finn announced his comeback to top-flight cricket with a maiden five-for that ripped apart India's batting order after they had recovered from a shaky start. Finn's charge turned 1 for 57 into 5 for 67, and 5 for 137 into 153, their lowest all-out score against England. That after India had decided to bat on a hard Gabba surface only to be undone by the extra bounce on the pitch. Ian Bell helped England chase the target down in 27.3 overs, claiming the crucial bonus point and a big net run rate boost.
India had to contend with inauspicious news just before the match. Their centurion from the MCG ODI, Rohit Sharma, had to pull out with a sore hamstring, which meant Ajnikya Rahane was required to fill in as opener again. It is, however, the other opener that has been India's problem on this tour. Against a rejuvenated and accurate James Anderson, who is returning from injury himself, Shikhar Dhawan stood no chance. It only seemed a matter of time that Anderson would get one right and Dhawan would nick off. It happened the first time Anderson bowled to Dhawan. By the time Anderson finished the over in which Dhawan got out, his figures read 2-2-0-1.
Rahane and Ambati Rayudu - the replacement for Rohit - batted edgily but stayed together for 12 overs, adding 56 runs. They had seen off the threat of Anderson and scored well against Stuart Broad, who didn't seem to be at his most intense. There were no easy runs on offer, though. The two had to repeatedly leave their crease to try to put the England bowlers off their lengths, but they succeeded too infrequently. When Rahane tried to do the same to Finn, the ball got too big, and the inevitable top edge appeared.
Virat Kohli, who for some reason has given up the No. 3 slot despite having been the best ODI No. 3 in the world at that moment, soon edged to the keeper, playing a nothing dab despite the presence of a slip. Finn's extra bounce again did the trick. Kohli's movement deep into the crease just before Finn had delivered hinted at desperation at how difficult scoring runs had been.
Suresh Raina, who scored a half-century in Melbourne to rescue India, provided a reminder of how difficult India had found Moeen Ali in the English summer, walking past an offbreak. The movement out of the crease again came too early. Soon Rayudu too failed to handle Finn's bounce as he looked to run one down to third man.
India had lost four wickets in the space of 27 deliveries, but MS Dhoni and Stuart Binny - playing in the place of R Ashwin - stalled the momentum with a 70-run partnership. Binny ended up with the top score of 44. Yet when India called for the Powerplay one over before the mandatory 36th over, they were staring at Finn and Anderson again. With the field coming in, the singles dried up, and Finn conceded just the one run in the 35th over. Anderson dropped a return offering from Dhoni first ball into his second spell, but conceding just a single he ensured the pressure was on.
India's innings ended so early England got six overs to bat before the break. It was time enough for Bell to get off to a fluent start even as Moeen fell to a slower ball from Binny, who opened the innings. The rest of the innings was all about Bell stylishly knocking off the runs and Binny getting an extended spell possibly as India's endeavour to test him out now that the match was lost.
Australia clinch the tie
Despite putting up a much improved performance, India were still left looking for their first win on the tour of Australia after losing to the hosts in their first game of the triseries. They came pretty close to achieving it, but their effort fell short as the home team sneaked home with an over and four wickets to spare in a match that could have gone either way at the MCG on Sunday.
The result may not have been the ideal start the Indians would have hoped for, but in the context of the upcoming World Cup, it surely was a step forward. The most notable takeaway was the return to form of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina and the late fightback by the bowlers.
Sharma, the holder of the highest ODI score, produced another top-notch innings (138) that helped India post a total of 268 which seemed a decent one. Australia should have won the game hands down as at one stage Aaron Finch and skipper Steve Smith were going great guns. But they allowed India to crawl back by recklessly giving away wickets. But James Faulkner, who is building a reputation of being a fine finisher, got a couple of boundaries in the penultimate over to clinch the issue for his team.
Australia trump England with bonus point
Australian opener David Warner led his team to an emphatic three-wicket win over England in the opening one-day international of the triangular series at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. The powerful left-hander's commanding century cancelled out a long overdue ton by new England skipper Eoin Morgan to help the Australians earn a bonus point for reaching the target inside 40 overs.
Morgan's lone hand of 121 off 136 balls with 11 fours and three sixes enabled England to recover from a disastrous start to make 234 in 47.5 overs. Warner then made 127, breaking his own drought with his first one-day international ton since back-to-back hundreds against Sri Lanka in 2012, as Australia cruised to the victory target with 61 balls to spare, finishing on 235 for seven from 39.5 overs.