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Fluent Smith trumps rollicking Rohit in easy win for Aussies

Steve Smith

Perth : Australian captain Steve Smith’s brilliant 149 overshadowed Rohit Sharma’s magnificent 171 as the hosts flayed India’s listless bowling attack en route a comprehensive five-wicket victory in the first ODI of the five-match cricket series, here today.

On one of the flattest WACA tracks in recent times, India reached a commanding 309 for three courtesy Rohit’s unbeaten 171 off 163 balls. Vice-captain Virat Kohli’s attractive 91 was the other significant contribution as the duo added 207 runs for the second wicket.

In reply, Smith, who faced 163 balls, added a staggering 242 runs for the third wicket with another former captain George Bailey (112) as the home team knocked off the runs with four balls to spare.

While it was another heartbreaking end to a Rohit century that ended in a losing cause (his T20 hundred and ODI hundred against SA were scored in defeats), Australian skipper Smith again turned out to be India’s nemesis pacing his innings to perfection.

Smith’s sequence of scores against the ‘Men In Blue’ across formats reads: 162 not out, 52 not out, 133, 28, 192, 14, 117, 71, 47, 105.

It also turned out to be the highest successful run-chase at the WACA and the third highest in an ODI in Australia.

The Indian bowling attack looked completely out of depth as the Smith-Bailey duo never did anything extraordinary but still managed to hammer Umesh Yadav and co with monotonic regularity.

For India, debutant Barinder Sran (3/56) managed to create an impression with early breakthroughs but the other bowlers failed to join the party.

Especially disappointing were India’s spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin (2/68 in 9 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (0/61 in 9 overs) looked far from penetrative.

They could hardly extract any turn and were played with consummate ease by the Aussie captain, whose footwork was exemplary.

Smith hit 11 fours and 2 sixes en route his fifth ODI ton while Bailey’s third hundred had seven fours and two sixes.

While Australia were 21 for two in the fifth over, things could have taken a different turn as Bailey looked to have gloved the first delivery he faced bowled by Sran. While Dhoni looked confident, Sran did not even go up with an appeal.

Bailey’s reprieve really cost India, but a lack of DRS couldn’t be blamed for this defeat. Along with Smith, he went about rebuilding the innings patiently and kept the scorecard ticking, looking to set the stage for a grandstand finish.

They brought up their 50-partnership in only 59 balls, and were particularly severe on the spinners. Rohit (0-11) had been introduced in the 12th over but that experiment didn’t work out.

Jadeja proved to be expensive, but it was Ashwin who disappointed the most, leaking runs in his first spell. The Tamil Nadu tweaker, who had a lot of success on the designer tracks at home, was hit for six boundaries and two sixes.

It also undid the decent job Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-42) and Umesh Yadav (0-54) had done in their first spell, to keep things quiet in support of Sran.

Kohli (0-13) bowled a couple of overs too as Dhoni searched for alternative options. Overall though, it was a disappointing bowling performance, as this was only the sixth time that a 300-plus total was chased down in ODIs on the Australian soil.

Smith and Bailey motored on then, bringing up their 100-stand off 107 balls. Smith reached his half-century off 55 balls, but Bailey had already over-taken him by then, getting there in 60 balls himself.

He was the first to reach the three-figure mark as well, scoring his third ODI hundred off 106 balls. Smith then brought up his fifth ODI hundred off 97 balls as the duo celebrated their 200-partnership off 197 balls.

Australia had already crossed the 250-mark in the 41st over, leaving not much to be done in the last 10 overs. But they still made heavy weather of it, with a flurry of wickets falling.

Ashwin struck twice, removing Bailey and Glenn Maxwell (6) both caught in the deep off over-pitched deliveries. Sran then removed Smith just before the finish.

Earlier, Rohit smashed his way to 171 as India piled up an imposing 309 for 3 against Australia after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss.

En route his ninth ODI hundred, the stylish right-hander from Mumbai broke a plethora of records, including the one where he surpassed Sir Vivian Richards’ 153 which has been the highest individual score against Australia in an ODI Down Under for the last 37 years.

Rohit faced 163 balls hitting 13 boundaries and seven huge sixes. He also added 207 runs for the second wicket with vice-captain Virat Kohli (91), who missed a well-deserved hundred. The Indian vice-captain hit 9 boundaries and a six.

Australia got a taste of Rohit’s blazing blade especially towards the end when India scored 61 off the last five overs.

Their partnership was the highest second for India against Australia in the ODIs surpassing the previous best of 199 set by Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in Indore back in 2001.

The Rohit-Kohli combination tore apart an inexperienced Australian attack as their debutant duo of left-arm fast bowler Joel Paris (0/53 in 8 overs) and right arm medium fast Scott Boland (0/74 in 10 overs) were taken to the cleaners.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan (9) and Rohit had a tough ask during the start as dense clouds had gathered over the WACA.

Josh Hazlewood (1-41) got off to a wayward start and Rohit capitalised on it in style. At the other end, local boy Paris (0-53) made a decent start to his international career, but then the Indian openers got the better off him too. Rohit looked good from the word go, and Dhawan ought to have played second fiddle but he didn’t seem comfortable at the crease. He was out caught off a mistimed pull shot in the 7th over off Hazlewood, with the score reading 36/1.

Kohli then walked in and the Australian bowlers weren’t given a breath of relief. The partnership got off to a cautious start, especially as the new batsman looked to settle in. But the two batsmen ran hard between the wickets, and Rohit got the boundaries easily, his swivel-six off Paris a highlight.

The 50-mark came up in the 10th over, and thereafter runs came at a canter. Kohli got into his groove nicely with two glorious boundaries in the 10th over off Paris, one through mid-wicket and the other down the ground.

Kohli looked determined to improve his poor record against the hosts in their den, and Australia’s one-dimensional attack didn’t look like stopping him either.

Their 50-partnership came off only 68 balls. Rohit reached his fifty off 63 balls in the 20th over and brought up the 100-mark in the 22nd over.

The run-scoring spree continued with Boland, Mitchell Marsh (0/53) and James Faulkner (2/60) making no impression either.

Glenn Maxwell (0-22) was brought into the attack then, and got hit out by Rohit as well, bowling only three overs at 7-plus per over.

Kohli brought up his 35th ODI half-century off 61 balls in the 32nd over, a mistimed pull sailing over the square leg boundary for six.

Rohit brought up his hundred off 122 balls in the 37th over (7 fours and 3 sixes), becoming the first Indian to score an ODI century against Australia at this ground.

Rohit crossed the 150-mark off 155 balls, and in doing so, crossed 1000 ODI runs against Australia in 19 innings, one less than Sachin Tendulkar.

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