Injury-plagued paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile (3-44) made a dream start to his first international match since June last year with a sensational opening spell.
The 29-year-old picked up three wickets in 13 balls including the prized scalp of India captain Virat Kohli who was out for a duck to a sensational one-handed catch from Maxwell.
Kohli may have been regretting his decision to bat under overcast skies as Coulter-Nile made the most of conditions to shape the ball away from the right-handed batsmen.
But with India reeling at 5-87 after Stoinis chimed in with two wickets, MS Dhoni (79 off 88) steadied the ship in trademark fashion.
He combined with Pandya for a vital 118-run partnership.
While Dhoni rotated the strike, Pandya’s power hitting came to the fore as he hit three consecutive sixes off legspinner Zampa (1-66) in the 37th over.
Pandya slapped a full toss for four before bludgeoning a trifecta of sixes, the second of which took him past 50.
“Obviously at 5-87 it was 70 per cent on Australia’s side and a wicket more would have brought it on to the lower-order,” Indian spinner Yuzvendra Chahal said.
“But the way they batted and the momentum that we got from the Zampa over and it carried on. And this wicket 270-80 is a winning total.”
The 24-run over swung the innings as Pandya pounced on anything full on his way to 83 off 66 balls.
But it was Zampa who ended Pandya’s rampage with a quicker delivery which found the top edge and popped up to third man.
“I guess the message to Zampa as well was to try and bring his length back a little bit,” Australia skipper Steve Smith said.
“He was bowling very full and Hardik looked like hitting every one of those for six.
“A soon as he got his length back a little bit and made him go across the ball he got him out.”
Zampa is Australia’s first-choice spin option on the tour ahead of bowling allrounder Ashton Agar.
Agar was 12th man in Chennai after taking 4-44 with his left-arm orthodox in the only warm-up match of the tour.
Australia favoured seam in the first match, but it’s unclear if they’ll change tack for Thursday’s match in Kolkata.
Part-time tweakers Maxwell and Travis Head weren’t used while seamers Marcus Stoinis and James Faulkner bowled their full 10 overs.
Later, Pandya took the crucial wickets of Steve Smith and Travis Head to finish with 2-28 in a man-of-the-match performance.
Chasing 164 off 21 overs after a lengthy delay, the visitors slumped to 4-35 in the eighth over when David Warner nicked Kaldeep Yadav through to Dhoni.
Maxwell tried to launch a rearguard action, but his 39 off 18 balls wasn’t enough to save his side from going one-nil down in the five-match series.
With the required run rate in excess of 10 with 11 overs remaining, the hard hitting allrounder kicked into gear by plundering 22 off a Kuldeep Yadav over including three consecutive sixes.
But Maxwell was caught in the deep off Yuzvendra Chahal (3-30) looking to clear the boundary for a sixth time before Stoinis (three) departed three balls later.
From 6-76 the mountain was too steep to climb and Australia finished 27 runs short at 9-137.
It was a cruel loss given the match was only minutes from being abandoned when play resumed.
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