For the second straight match, Mitchell Starc produced a match-winning spell of bowling that helped Australia beat a strong Indian unit, by four wickets, in the second ODI of the Carlton Mid ODI Tri-series on Sunday.
India's captain, MS Dhoni, won the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that favoured the batsmen. But Starc refused to let India' openers settle and dismissed Shikhar Dhawan off just the fifth delivery of the match.
The initial loss pegged India's strong batting order on the back foot as they looked to avoid any further setbacks. The defensive posture proved costly for the tourists and they lost Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli cheaply.
Rohit Sharma, who opened the innings, and Suresh Raina were the only Indian batsmen to provide a rearguard of sorts. The duo put on a 126-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Starc was instrumental in breaking the partnership. He dismissed Raina for 51, just when India looked to steal the initiative from Australia. Sharma, India's top scorer with 138, played impressively and smashed nine fours and four sixes in his innings that lasted 139 balls. He combined with the lower-middle order to take India to a respectable 267. Sharma fell to Starc in the 49th over.
Starc's 6 for 43 was the second-best return ever in an ODI in Australia. India's bowlers tried to copy Starc's first-innings heroics, but they failed to do so.
Australia's top-five batsmen produced the goods for the hosts. Opener Aaron Finch was their top-scorer with a well-made 96. Australia lost six wickets in total during the chase. They scored the winning runs in the 49th over of the match. Starc' heroics with the ball earned him his second-straight Man-of-the-Match award.
"It's not always going to be that you come in and take the wickets, sometimes you're going to lose games," Starc said. "I enjoy the challenge and there's something I work really hard at. I'm really confident with my white-ball game and you're going to find you're going to string a few games together where that execution is really good, which I think the bowling unit has found the last two games."
"It's something we all work really hard at," Starc said of bowling at the death. "For a number of games now it's something we really want to nail. It comes back to the training and we do a lot of it, the whole bowling group do a lot of it. It's great that we have so many options of guys who can bowl at the death. It's something I really enjoy."