Australia have rocketed to the top of the tri-series standings as Ben Hilfenhaus continued to torment India in his return to one-day cricket.
Replacing an ill Clint McKay for his first ODI in more than two years, Hilfenhaus took a career-best 5-33 as the home side pounded the tourists by 110 runs on Sunday night.
But both sides face growing worries about modern-day greats Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar who were both made to look second-rate with ugly failures at the Gabba.
A tired Ponting’s immediate one-day future is on shaky ground after he looked all at sea making just seven – his fifth straight single-figure failure – as Australia posted 5-288.
But the stand-in skipper, due for a rest with Michael Clarke expected to return from injury this week, still managed to marshall his troops to a convincing victory by routing India for 178.
The tourists had no answers to the pace and swing of new-ball duo Hilfenhaus and Brett Lee (3-49) who ripped through their top-order to effectively kill off the contest at 4-36.
Skipper MS Dhoni delayed the inevitable with a patient 56 but once he holed out to Hilfenhaus, in the 38th over, a bonus point was in the bag for Australia.
Australia’s dominant win takes them to the top of the table on 13 points – three ahead of India (10), who will meet Sri Lanka (7) on Tuesday.
While Australia’s selectors have a dilemma in how to handle Ponting’s twilight years, especially with the next World Cup three years away, India appear to have just as big a problem in managing Tendulkar.
The Little Master, searching for his hundredth international century for the past 11 months, was made to look like a rookie as he upper cut Hilfenhaus straight to Xavier Doherty at third man to fall for three.
While Ponting has just 18 runs in the tri-series at an embarrassing average of 3.6, Tendulkar has 68 runs at 17 and hasn’t looked like challenging for his milestone century.
Like Tendulkar, who lasted 12 balls, Ponting struggled to find the middle of his bat and the gaps in the field in a painful 26-ball stay after David Warner propelled the home side to 1-70 with a breezy 43.
Australia’s momentum halted with his innings and only an impressive century stand by Mike Hussey (59 off 52) and adopted Queenslander Peter Forrest (52 off 71) put the home side on track on a good batting wicket.
Late lusty hitting by Dan Christian (30no off 18) and David Hussey (26no off 20) then ensured India would face a tough chase as they blasted 65 off the last six overs.
India shot themselves in the foot in the field with four dropped catches, including two off Mike Hussey, and two muffed run outs.
The comedy of errors wasn’t restricted to the players though with the match officials involved in farcical scenes after third umpire Bruce Oxenford unwittingly giving Hussey out on one.
Oxenford blamed a technical malfunction as he attempted to give the not out call to a stumping review but “OUT” flashed on the big screen before the batsman trudged off, only to be recalled by the on-field umpires.