Rohit Sharma’s individual brilliance was not enough to make up for a floundering top and middle order as India suffered a 34-run defeat at the hands of a resilient Australia in the first One-day International on Saturday.
Sharma conjured up a magnificent 133 off 129 balls for his 22nd ODI hundred but eventually it only helped in reducing the defeat-margin as India ended up at 254 for nine while chasing a 289-run target.
Three of India’s top four batsmen could not reach double-digits and lasted a mere 11 balls.
With 10 fours and six sixes, Sharma reached his hundred off 110 balls, equalling Sourav Ganguly’s record of 22 ODI centuries and is now behind only Sachin Tendulkar (49) and Virat Kohli (38).
India were gasping after losing three batsmen at a single-digit score of four before Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (51) combined to stitch together a 137-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Debutant Jason Behrendorff broke the partnership by sending back Dhoni, who became only the fifth Indian batsman to complete 10,000 runs in ODI cricket during the course of his knock that came off 96 balls.
Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Kohli are the only other batsmen to have achieved the feat.
The hosts owe their 1-0 lead in the three-match series to a collective batting effort by their middle-order batsmen, specially Peter Handscomb, who switched gears in time to steer his side to 288 for five with his 73-run knock.
Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis (47 not out) grabbed the momentum with their 68-run stand for the fifth wicket as Australia scored 93 runs in the last 10 overs.
Usman Khawaja (59) and Shaun Marsh (54) also scored half-centuries for the hosts who lost skipper Aaron Finch (6) in a slow start after electing to bat.
Young paceman Jhye Richardson (4/26) rocked the Indian middle order by dismissing India skipper Virat Kohli (3) and Ambati Rayudu (0) in the space of three balls and later added the wickets of Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja in a career-best performance.
First, Behrendorff (2-39) trapped Shikhar Dhawan lbw for a first-ball duck before Richardson swung into action. Kohli was caught at short square leg, and then two balls later Rayudu (0) was trapped plumb lbw, as the Indian top-order was destroyed.