SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Shane Watson made a triumphant return by captaining Australia to an emphatic 87-run victory over India on Sunday and ensuring the hosts a place in the final of the one-day international Tri-series.
Watson, who last played for his country in South Africa last November before being sidelined by injury, stood in for injured skipper Michael Clarke and took two wickets for nine runs as his team bowled out India for 165 in reply to Australia’s 252 for nine.
India now need a bonus-point victory over Sri Lanka in Hobart on Tuesday and must rely on Australia beating their sub-continental rivals in Melbourne on Friday to have any hope of progressing to the best of three match final.
After Watson’s batting return had ended with just a single run, David Warner scored his first half century of the year in limited overs cricket, wicketkeeper Matt Wade hit 56 and David Hussey a controversial 54 to fire the Australian innings.
Hussey was on 17 and running for a single when he put out his hand to block fielder Suresh Raina’s throw to the stumps.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni appealed for an “obstructing the field” dismissal but umpire Billy Bowden turned him down after a long consultation with the third umpire, deciding that the batsman was protecting himself from injury.
Warner was despatched by left-armer Ravindra Jadeja for 68 but even in taking his wicket India suffered, Raina taking a superb catch but clattering into Irfan Pathan as he did so and leaving his team mate only able to bowl five overs.
Dhoni, who once again had to deny rumours of rifts in his squad this week, allowed Virender Sehwag nine overs with the ball and was rewarded with three wickets for 43 from the veteran as the Indians slowed the Australians run rate in the last 10 overs of their innings.
Sachin Tendulkar was cheered onto the field by the 33,639 crowd as he marched out to open the Indian innings and continue his quest for his 100th international century.
The batting maestro had made just 14 runs, however, when he was run out, waving his arms in frustration at Brett Lee who had unintentionally blocked his path to the crease.
By that stage Sehwag had already departed for five and when Virat Kohli (21) and Gautam Gambhir (23) were dismissed in successive overs, India were struggling at 83 for four.
Watson, who had Kohli caught by Dan Christian at midwicket in his first full over, then removed Raina caught behind for eight to drive home the advantage.
Dhoni, returning after a one-match ban for India’s slow over rate, battled for 49 balls to give his country a captain’s innings but when he was trapped lbw by Ben Hilfenhaus he had just 14 runs on the board.
The end game was afoot and although Irfan (22) and Ravi Ashwin (26) wagged the tail a bit, the large Indian contingent in the crowd had long gone quiet when Xavier Doherty bowled Praveen Kumar to end another miserable night in Australia for their team.