ADELAIDE: India's bowlers tightened their grip on the Australian batsmen in restricting the home side to 203 for nine in their tri-series match here Sunday.
With teenager Ishant Sharma once again leading the way and Ricky Ponting's form woes continuing, Australia slumped to 73 for five on a good batting wicket before a Michael Clarke half-century helped them set at least a competitive target after winning the toss and electing to bat.
Clarke, who had been in doubt for the match due to bruised ribs suffered when struck by Lasith Malinga on Friday, made 79 from 108 balls, but lacked support until tailender Brad Hogg chipped in with 32 in a 72-run seventh-wicket stand.
Clarke finally fell in the 47th over, caught on the mid-wicket boundary from the bowling of Irfan Pathan, who bowled magnificently to claim 4-41.
India beat Australia at their last meeting and were on top from the outset, Sharma beating opener Matthew Hayden four times in his first two overs.
But it was Adam Gilchrist, coming off a century in Perth against Sri Lanka on Friday and in good touch with three early boundaries, that was the first to fall to the paceman, for 15.
Sharma produced another fine delivery to cramp Gilchrist, who chopped the ball off an inside edge into his stumps.
Ponting came to the wicket with an obvious intent to get on top of the bowling with positive strokeplay, but the Australian captain made just 10 before cutting the recalled Munaf Patel straight to Rohit Sharma at point.
It took Ponting's tally for the series to just 53 runs at 10.60 and his latest failure came just a couple of days after Gilchrist admitted the skipper was struggling with the burdens of a long and often controversial summer.
Hayden has also struggled for form in the tri-series and rarely looked comfortable, despite one massive six off Patel, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to bring on Pathan paid immediate dividends when the Australian opener was caught behind for 13 in the left-armer's first over.
Andrew Symonds is another Australian batsman struggling for runs and he made just three before being caught by Uthappa in gully from the bowling of Sharma.
Symonds has just 38 runs at 9.50 in the tri-series and even the normally reliable Mike Hussey fell cheaply, caught behind off Pathan for just five as Australia slumped to 73 for five in the 24th over.
Pathan also claimed the wicket of tailender Nathan Bracken late in the Australian innings, while Sharma finished with 2-32 from nine impressive overs.