| Daniel Vettori appeals for the wicket of Andrew Symonds, one of his four victims, on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Melbourne: Australia allrounder Shane Watson grabbed three wickets to inspire the world champions to a crushing 93-run victory over World XI in the first of three one-day Internationals on Wednesday.
Watson finished with figures of three for 43 as the highly-vaunted World XI batting line-up was dismissed for 162 in the 43rd over in reply to Australia’s 255 for eight.
Only Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara (64) provided any real resistance to the Australian attack and the victory margin would have been greater if the hosts had not dropped three relatively simple catches.
New Zealand left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori was the pick of the World XI bowlers, taking four for 33 off his 10 overs.
The World XI team failed to get to grips with Australia’s four-pronged pace attack.
Glenn McGrath was particularly miserly, his opening seven overs costing just 13 runs as he took the wickets of Virender Sehwag (6) and Jacques Kallis (8) to leave the visitors struggling at 45 for two.
Former West Indies captain Brian Lara lasted just two balls before he was caught by Andrew Symonds off Nathan Bracken for a duck before Rahul Dravid (4), Kevin Pietersen (2), Sangakkara and super sub Shahid Afridi (2) departed in rapid succession.
Indians Sehwag and Dravid found themselves undone by the searing pace and steep bounce of the track.
When World XI captain Shaun Pollock was run out for five by a direct hit from 35 metres by Watson, the visitors had slumped to 117 for eight in the 33rd over and all but lost the match.
Ashes Man-of-the-Series Andrew Flintoff, who was dropped by Brett Lee on six, provided late resistance with a battling 38 before he became Watson’s third wicket when he holed out to McGrath in the deep.
The Aussies had been under pressure following their recent Ashes loss to England with critics writing mock obituaries on the death of the Invincibles. But Ricky Ponting’s men came up with a typical domineering cricket to outclass their rivals. The World XI were simply outclassed in all departments of the game.
Ponting had won the toss and decided to bat in front of a disappointing crowd of under 5,000 at the start of play.
Officials said the crowd grew to 18,435, though there were vast tracts of empty seats in the 53,000 capacity stadium.
Australia failed to capitalise on a brisk start provided by Simon Katich (58) and Adam Gilchrist (45), who put on 80 for the first wicket, with tight spin bowling and poor shot selection leading to a middle-order collapse.
After Gilchrist was bowled by Kallis, Ponting (23) combined with Katich for a 48-run second wicket partnership before Pollock enticed a leading edge to Lara.
Damien Martyn was caught by Vettori for a three-ball duck, continuing the poor run of form that caused him to be dropped from the Test side, before Katich and Michael Clarke (6) misread slower deliveries from Muttiah Muralidharan and Vettori.
Mike Hussey (32) and Symonds (36) resurrected the innings when they combined for a 52-run sixth-wicket partnership before Lee contributed a cameo 26 off 17 balls to guide Australia to their total.
The second ODI will be played at the same venue on Friday with the third and final match on Sunday. The lone six-day Test will be played in Sydney from October 14 to 19.