Finch, Smith post centuries; Australia sets India 375 to win

SYDNEY (AP) — 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 against India in the series-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.

It's the first international cricket in Australia since March, and comes 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.

Maxwell's innovative bag of trick shots contributed to boundaries from reserve 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.

The Australian and Indian players joined to form a bare foot 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 in a first-class game preceding a test series between Australia and India.

It was a return to form for Finch after a slow run in the Indian Premier League, stroking nine boundaries and two sixes as he raised his 17th ODI century and fourth against India.

His century opening stand was his 11th with Warner, who contributed 69 from 76 balls before he edged Shami to wicketkeeper KL Rahul in the 28th over.

The return of Smith for injured allrounder Mitchell Marsh was the only change to the Australia lineup that clinched an ODI series win over World Cup winner England in September — the national team's only tour since global sports was shuttered in March.

Virat Kohli’s India lineup hasn’t played international cricket since losing the tests and ODI series in New Zealand in March, although most players in the limited-overs squads are coming off games in the IPL.

Australia and India will meet in three ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals before the four-match test series starts Dec. 17 in Adelaide.


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