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Finch, Smith centuries help Australia to big win over India

Steve Smith raced to 100 from 62 balls, the third-fastest ODI century by an Australian batsman.

By: AP | Sydney | Updated: November 28, 2020 8:15:30 am
Steve Smith in action against India. (AP Photo)

Aaron Finch and his band of Aussie batters were playing for the crowd.

The Australian captain scored 114 and shared partnerships of 156 with opener David Warner and 108 with Steve Smith to help lift the home team to 374-6 on Friday and set up a 66-run win over India in the tour-opening one-day international.

Smith raced to 100 from 62 balls, the third-fastest ODI century by an Australian batsman, after overcoming early reprieves when he successfully reviewed an LBW decision against him and was also dropped in the outfield. After belting 11 boundaries and four sixes, he was bowled by Mohammed Shami for 105 in the last over of the innings.

“I probably took a few more risks than I normally would, but I was seeing the ball well,” Smith said. “You need a bit of luck in this game sometimes. Nice to ride it today, and score a few for the team.”

India started rapidly in reply, taking 20 runs off Mitchell Starc in the first over and racing to 46-0 after four, but was pegged back by paceman Josh Hazlewood (3-55) and Adam Zampa (4-54) and eventually restricted to 308-8 in 50 overs.

Shikhar Dhawan, with 74 from 86 balls, and Hardik Pandya, with 90 from 76, were the biggest contributors for India in its first international match since March.

Skipper Virat Kohli scored a run-a-ball 21 after being dropped in the outfield on one, but was unable to capitalize on India’s fast start.

It was the first international cricket in Australia in eight months, and came a day after a dozen Australian players and the entire India squad finished a 14-day period of quarantine that has become mandatory for arrivals Down Under during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state government lifted restrictions and allowed a crowd of up to 50% of capacity at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and about 24,000 tickets sold out quickly. The Australian batters treated them to a blizzard of boundaries — 33 fours and nine sixes in the innings. India also obliged, with 24 boundaries and nine sixes.

Glenn Maxwell’s innovative bag of trick shots contributed to boundaries from reverse sweeps and wristy flicks before he was out for 45 from 19 balls, caught in the deep off Shami after hitting five boundaries and three sixes. Shami returned the best figures for India with 3-59.

Finch’s 17th ODI hundred contained nine boundaries and two sixes and he combined for an 11th century opening stand with Warner, who contributed 69 from 76 balls.

Australia returned to international cricket in September with an ODI series win in England against the World Cup champions. For Kohli’s India lineup, though, it was a first taste of international cricket since losing in New Zealand in March.

Most players in the field were coming off stints in the Twenty20 IPL, but there were signs of rustiness with a half-dozen dropped catches across the 50 overs.

Kohli didn’t blame the break, saying his team had enough time to prepare.

“No excuses on the field,” he said. “The body language in the field after 20 overs wasn’t great. And if you don’t take your chances against a quality side, they’re going to hurt you — that’s what happened today.”

He said his lineup showed a vast improvement despite chasing a big total.

“All of us committed to positive cricket when we were chasing 375,” he said. “We needed a big innings from the top three … (unfortunately) it didn’t happen today.”

The Australian and Indian players joined to form a barefoot circle on the field before the match, in a modified tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement with particular emphasis on recognizing Australia’s Indigenous people.

There were also tributes to former test batsmen Dean Jones, who died of heart failure in India in September while working as a TV cricket commentator, and Phillip Hughes, who was 25 when he died in 2014 after being struck on the back of the head by ball at the SCG.

The next ODI in a three-game series is Sunday. Australia and India meet in a four-match test series starting Dec. 17.

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