CHENNAI – Skipper Virat Kohli hailed Hardik Pandya’s game-changing performance Sunday after the all-rounder powered India to a 26-run win over Australia in the rain-hit first one-day international.

Pandya smashed a 66-ball 83 and claimed two wickets to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the five-match series at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium.

Chasing a revised target of 164 in 21 overs after rain delays, Australia were frustrated by wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav who shared five wickets between them. They ended on 137-9.

But it was Pandya’s gritty 118-run sixth-wicket stand with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who made 79, that lifted India from a top-order collapse to 281-7 in 50 overs.

“He (Hardik) believes in himself. That is the key in international cricket. Hardik’s innings was the game-changer. He is smart with the ball as well,” said Kohli.

“He possesses all three skills (batting, bowling and fielding) equally and we are lucky to have him,” Kohli added.

In reply, the visitors had to wait for two hours to start their shortened chase as constant drizzle threatened to spoil the contest.

Pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya combined to hurt Australia’s hopes of reaching a tricky target with three early strikes including skipper Steve Smith for one.

Bumrah bowled debutant opener Hilton Cartwright for one. He then took a stunning high catch at short fine-leg to send Smith trudging back to the pavilion off Pandya.

Left-arm wrist spinner Yadav also joined the party after getting star opener David Warner caught behind for 25 as Australia´s innings fell apart.

“I think 160 with one new ball would have made things a lot easier. When you have two new balls from both ends, as we saw throughout the game it was a new-ball wicket,” Smith told reporters.

“They found it hard. Was the same for us. When you are playing 20 overs you don’t have great deal of time to make things up…it was difficult in that aspect,” he added.

Glenn Maxwell tried to raise Australia’s hopes with his 18-ball 39, including three fours and four sixes, but Chahal cut short the batsman’s blitz.

Leg-spinner Chahal ended with three wickets in his five overs. Pandya and Yadav took two each.-Online