Chennai: India rode on contrasting half centuries from all-rounder Hardik Pandya and former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to post 281/7 against Australia in the opener of the five-match One-day International series at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
Pandya (83 from 66 balls; 4*5, 6*5) and Dhoni (79 from 88; 4*4, 6*2) forged an 118-run sixth wicket stand to help India recover from a precarious 87/5 after India skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat.
The 23-year-old Pandya meted out special treatment to Adam Zampa, taking the young leg-spinner to the cleaners on three consecutive occasions to get to his third ODI fifty off 48 balls before falling to the same bowler, later in the innings.
This was the Baroda all-rounder's career-best ODI score, surpassing the 76, which he belted against Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final in England, earlier this year.
Dhoni, at the other end, provided stability with a patient 75-ball 50 but more importantly carried on after the loss of Pandya to forge another healthy 72-run seventh wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (32 not out from 30; 4*5).
Earlier, India were off to a forgettable start with three of the top four batsmen back in the hut with only 11 runs on the board.
Pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile made a stunning comeback to 50-over cricket by claiming opener Ajinkya Rahane (5), and skipper Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey (both for noughts) for the scorecard to read 11/3.
Rahane was the first to depart after a wild swing at a ball wide outside the off-stump found the edge and sailed into Matthew Wade's gloves behind the wicket.
Next up was the prized scalp of Kohli, who couldn't resist the temptation to drive and Glenn Maxwell leapt in the air at gully to take an incredible one-handed catch.
Pandey, too, nicked one to Wade to give the 29-year-old Coulter-Nile his third wicket.
With the team in deep trouble, opener Rohit Sharma (28) and Kedar Jadhav (40) brought some solidity with a 53-run fourth wicket stand before Sharma fell to a short-pitched delivery from Marcus Stoinis.
Stoinis added salt to India's wounds with the wicket of Jadhav, who looked good during his 53-ball stay, striking five hits to the fence.
With India tottering at 87/5, it all depended on the last recognised batting duo of Dhoni and Pandya, who got their act together to deliver the needed stability. The stumper then added the late order fireworks with Bhuvneshwar for company.
The 36-year-old Ranchi stumper started off slowly and was overtaken by Pandya early on but took off in the later stages of the innings to enable India reach a comfortable total.
For the visitors, Coulter-Nile finished with figures of 3/44 while Stoinis took 2/54. James Faulkner (1/67) and Zampa (1/66) were the other wicket-takers.
Brief Scores: India 281/7 (Hardik Pandya 83, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 79, Kedar Jadhav 40, Nathan Coulter-Nile 3/44, Marcus Stoinis 2/54) vs Australia.