Ponting boosts Australia after India collapse

India 222 Australia 224-3 Australia win by 7 wickets
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The Independent Online

Australia waltzed to a seven-wicket victory over India to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals of the VB Series in Melbourne.

Having dismissed India for 222, the hosts strolled to 224 for three inside 41 overs and will be confident of clinching the series when the two sides meet for the second final in Sydney on Sunday.

A typically blistering start to the Australian run chase by Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden was ended in just the sixth over, the wicket falling with the score on 48.

Gilchrist raced to 38 from just 20 deliveries before top-edging a hook shot to fine leg off the bowling of Lakshmipathy Balaji, Sachin Tendulkar making a tricky catch look surprisingly easy.

Hayden and Ricky Ponting then added 139 for the second wicket to take Australia to within sight of the target.

Hayden built a patient innings of 50, off 91 deliveries, until the powerful left hander scooped a half volley straight back to Balaji.

Under-fire Damien Martyn was given a chance to regain his lost form and built a score in an effort to cement his place in the touring party to Sri Lanka, due to be announced next week.

The pressure showed on Martyn as it took the Western Australian 14 balls to get off the mark.

Balaji picked up his third wicket when Ponting (88) edged to part-time wicketkeeper Rahul Dravid.

Ponting was furious with himself but he had overtaken injured Michael Bevan to move into third place in the list of Australian leading run-scorers in one days internationals.

Martyn (20no) and Andrew Symonds (10no) then calmly set about scoring the 30 runs required for victory when they eventually reached their target in the 41st over.

Earlier India were bowled out for 222 in the 49th over after a top order collapse reduced the tourists to 75 for six.

Both openers were removed early on, the pace of Jason Gillespie accounted for Virender Sehwag (three), who fended off a short delivery straight to Gilchrist.

Tendulkar (eight) followed shortly afterwards when Brett Lee removed his off stump to leave India on 14 for two.

Hemang Badani and Agit Agarkar added 102 for the seventh wicket, an Indian record in one-day internationals, which eventually took them to 177 for seven.

Agarkar (53) then perished to a poor shot, cutting a Michael Clarke delivery straight to Lee at point.

Irfan Pathan scored 19 at a run-a-ball, which took his team past 200, before two needless run-outs accounted for Pathan and Anil Kumble.

Gillespie finished the innings with a yorker to dismiss Balaji (2), leaving Badani stranded on 60 not out.

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