After an utterly one-sided game in the first ODI, the series lived up to its hype in Rajkot with India bouncing back in an intriguing contest. Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium will now host the series decider on Sunday.
The Bengaluru venue has been an iconic one in light of the India-Australia rivalry in recent times. The ground has hosted only two ODIs post the 2011 ODI World Cup, both of which have been between India and Australia. The mind goes back to 2013, when the two sides locked horns in another series-decider at the same venue in a memorable series. It also witnessed a dramatic Test match between these oppositions that brought the home side roaring into the 2017 series.
The level of competition between the two sides has not dropped with 2020 se tot be added to the list. India sorted their batting woes in Rajkot but will still need to be wary of the Aussie bowlers, against whom they have had a mediocre record since 2018.
A big step towards India rectifying their batting troubles was Virat Kohli occupying the preferred number three spot again. The number four slot, though, has turned into a never ending debate. With even Virat Kohli struggling to score runs at that number, the spot now seems to be unpropitious now.
Shreyas Iyer, who emerged as a strong contender for the spot post World Cup has seemed to be struggling against quality pace. The right-hand batsman has an average of 205 against spinners but against pace, the number drops alarmingly to 25.6. Considering how Aaron Finch uses Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins during the middle-overs, Iyer’s place in the side is under the scanner.
The injury scars put another challenge in front of Virat Kohli & Co to field a perfect batting order. Shikhar Dhawan did not take the field in the second half of the Rajkot ODI after being hit on his ribcage while Rohit Sharma dislocated his shoulder attempting a dive. Although, both are reported to be progressing well but the final call will only be taken before the game. In case any of those miss the game, which is highly likely, KL Rahul will be asked to open again after a blockbuster performance in the middle-order in Rajkot.
There isn’t any official news on Rishabh Pant but it is likely that he will take the gloves back after missing the second ODI due to concussion. Considering India’s dodgy middle-order, the top three will once again become key like they were in a lost World Cup semifinal against New Zealand last year.
India’s key to beat Australia lies in tackling Mitchell Starc. Since he became a regular feature in ODIs post his injury, ie, the 2019 World Cup last year, Australia have lost four ODIs, the only four ODIs in which Starc leaked runs at an economy of six or more. The left-arm seamer is an indispensable weapon in Australia’s pace battery. The man with the best bowling strike-rate in ODIs with a minimum of 100 wickets (25.3 balls per wicket) is capable of taking wickets in all phases of the innings.
The opening partnership between Aaron Finch and David Warner is another aspect that can decide the game. Warner has tonked four hundreds in 12 innings since his return while Finch has three hundreds in the same time period. Getting Warner early in Rajkot, courtesy a terrific catch from Manish Pandey, was key to India’s comeback victory. A 96-run stand for the third wicket between Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne off only 94 deliveries was a sign that Australian batting was not limited to the openers.
The only chink in an otherwise perfect Australian ODI side is the unavailability of a strong finisher. Steve Smith’s departure for 98 in Rajkot effectively brought curtains to Australia’s run-chase. Ashton Turner did win a game for Australia last year with his death-over hitting but is far from the reputation earned by Glenn Maxwell who is currently scoring runs for fun in the Big Bash League. The spin bowling all-rounder, Ashton Agar has never been known for his power-hitting.
India: Rohit Sharma/Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa