Australia 6 for 374 (Finch 114, Smith 105, Warner 69, Maxwell 45, Shami 3-59) beat India 8 for 308 (Pandya 90, Dhawan 74, Zampa 4-54, Hazlewood 3-55) by 66 runs
Australia's first match of a Covid-19 international summer that might have begun in Perth, Brisbane or Adelaide before finally settling upon the grand old SCG was fitting in that it was both bracingly uneven and also a commanding victory for a home side that was as organised as the logistical efforts that had allowed the series to get underway in the first place.
A backbone century from Aaron Finch and a blistering one from Steven Smith, coupled with characteristic contributions from David Warner and Glenn Maxwell, vaulted Australia to an imposing 6 for 374, before India's chase was unable to maintain the runaway momentum of a beginning that benefitted from a rare case of Mitchell Starc losing control of the ball. The hosts were concerned primarily by a side problem that afflicted Marcus Stoinis - in a tight schedule his injury may open a path for Moises Henriques or Cameron Green.
For a couple of passages in particular: the 25 balls in which Maxwell accompanied Smith and then the 21 faced by Virat Kohli, the game touched moments of the greatest possible theatre. But these interludes were fleeting, and fell either side of a more dominant theme, that of Australia's ODI team imposing their greater sense of settled system and home comfort against an Indian side that will be battling both foreign conditions and increasing extremes of isolation after decamping to the IPL as distantly as three months ago.
Finch and Warner had set the hosts an ideal platform, then Smith and Maxwell went suitably ballistic on a warm and sun-kissed Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of 17,821. Their contrasting quartet of innings was a model in collaboration and acceleration. Save for an admirable spell from Mohammed Shami, the Indians were noticeably sluggish with the ball and in the field. Misfields and dropped catches furrowed Kohli's brow, while the legbreaks of Yuzvendra Chahal were rendered particularly defenceless against Smith and Maxwell at their most damaging.
Starc's opening over went for an eye-popping 20 thanks to eight wides and a no-ball, and after five overs the visitors were 0 for 53. Mayank Agarwal's exit brought Kohli to the middle, and when he faced up to Pat Cummins and was dropped, hooking, by Adam Zampa at fine leg, India breathed anew. Instead of this moment affording the game a new twist, however, Kohli only made it as far as 21, and Zampa, alongside Josh Hazlewood, proved the most dominant bowling force of the game.
The hosts had only one change from their last ODI team, against England in Manchester earlier in the year, with Mitchell Marsh absent and Smith returning after he had been unavailable due to concussion. India's captain Kohli chose to include Agarwal at the top of the order opposite Shikhar Dhawan in the absence of Rohit Sharma. Around 40 minutes before the toss, both teams stood side by side to form a barefoot circle around the Walkabout Wickets silk to acknowledge Australia's Indigenous people and also express their discontent with racism.
The decision to hold the barefoot circle this early, prior to the start of broadcast coverage, was settled upon because Australia's players wanted more time to talk through their first participation in the ceremony and to share their thoughts with the Aboriginal elder present for a Welcome to Country.
After the toss, the allrounder Marcus Stoinis spoke to the host broadcaster Fox Cricket on what it meant: "It's really important that we make a stand and we understand how important the Aboriginal culture is to Australia and to Australian history, and it was really good by India to show that respect as well. It means a lot. It's the start of a long process, and I think education is the start of it as well."
Following tributes to the late Dean Jones and Phil Hughes - on the sixth anniversary of his death - Finch and Warner walked out to an expectant crowd and the prospect of an early meeting with India's blue-chip new-ball attack. Shami's first ball zipped past Warner's outside edge, but this was to give a false impression of the contest to come. While Warner and Finch were not quite at their sharpest, the Australians were able to slip into something closer to their best gears than India on the day after the bulk of both sides cleared hotel quarantine.
Warner's timing was more consistent, as a couple of square drives and pull shots pinged beautifully to the boundary, but Finch had clearly set himself for a long innings and the arrival of the spinners gave him a chance to stretch out. After he held back on his first sally down the wicket against Chahal, tugging a googly towards mid-on after seeming to get into position to drive over cover, he deposited his next big shot into the SCG members stand, as the pair made steady acceleration.
After a further acknowledgement of Hughes at 4.08pm local time, Warner made it to 69 and the stand to 156, whereupon he edged Shami behind. The initial not-out verdict and delay after India reviewed stemmed largely from close proximity between the ball hitting the edge and the bat hitting the ground, but Warner was eventually sent on his way. Smith wasted little time, to back up his earlier assertion about "finding his hands" in the nets during quarantine. By the time Finch reached a meritorious hundred and then departed, Smith already had 63 from 42 balls.
A duck for Stoinis enabled Maxwell to enter with 56 balls remaining, and for the next 4.1 overs he and Smith went beautifully berserk to add 57. At one point, Maxwell reverse-smashed Chahal over the fence and then let out a laugh while meeting Smith in mid-pitch. There was a giddy joy about this brief but damaging stand that was a tonic to all spectators, whether at the ground or watching the broadcast, after a year of countless tribulations.
Maxwell made all of 45 from his 19 balls then holed out to long-on, in search of his 50, clearing the stage for Smith to reach a hundred that put him among the fastest-ever ODI centurions for Australia. The wind had well and truly left Indian sails by this point, even as a few late wickets fell: 110 had come from the final 10 overs of the innings.
India's chase required both rapid scoring and the preservation of wickets. With help from Starc's loss of control, they managed this initially, but it was a level of momentum that could not be continued given how well-calibrated Hazlewood appeared to be after sitting idle for much of the IPL. He was the bowler to more or less decide the contest when he winkled out Kohli, pouched at midwicket, and then bounced out Shreyas Iyer two balls later.
Zampa followed up with some fiendish deliveries of his own, and despite Dhawan and Hardik Pandya, the game's main question by the end was how far after the scheduled 11pm finish time it would linger - when Starc yorked Shami in the final over, he did not even pause to celebrate.
India will be better than this as the tour goes on. Their major problem is the fact that Australia will be, too.