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NAGPUR: Two new balls; four fielders outside the circle in non Powerplay overs; thicker willows; shorter boundaries; flat tracks; fast outfield and regular 300-plus scores. It has been a typical sub-continent one-day series so far. While batsmen aren’t complaining, it has been a nightmare for the bowlers. There is little to choose between the two teams as they are still to decode the formula to stop the free flow of runs.
Australia, though, have bowled slightly better barring that Jaipur game where dew played a crucial role in the historic Indian chase. They now have the chance to seal the series here at Vidarbha Cricket Association’s Jamtha stadium in the penultimate game of the series on Wednesday.
With two back to back abandoned games due to rains, the seven-match series has been reduced to a five-match series and India — trailing 1-2 — have everything to play for. They haven’t won the full ODI series against Australia at home so far. From here on, they need to pull up their socks and plug a few loopholes if they want to create history.
It’s one of those rare series for MS Dhoni where none of his bowlers have made their presence felt. Bhuvneshwar Kumar hasn’t given the early breakthrough; R Vinay Kumar and Ishant Sharma are neither economical nor effective. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been Dhoni’s go-to men but this series is a bit different. Jadeja might have bowled economically but he hasn’t been amongst the wicket so far. Ashwin, on the hand, has picked five wickets but he has gone for plenty and that’s where the Australian middle order has taken advantage. Despite early hiccups, the visitors managed to post a healthy total in Ranchi. The rules have been loaded heavily in batsmen’s favour but the Indian bowlers haven’t bowled up to the mark. Their poor show will certainly put pressure on the batsmen at some stage but Dhoni would be hoping that it won’t happen in Nagpur.
The Indian top order has fired but the middle order hasn’t responded well. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli are looking good, while Dhoni continues to play the role of crisis man. However, the left-handed trio of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Jadeja is yet to fire. Yuvraj has struggled against the extra pace of Mitchell Johnson. Raina has so far been entrusted with the crucial No.4 spot but he too has had a quiet series so far.
Australia, on the other hand, have thoroughly covered most of the bases. Openers Aaron Finch and Philip Hughes have denied the Indians early success so far. Captain George Bailey has been in the form of his life and looked fluent against both spinners and pacers. Adam Voges has played the role of a grafter with aplomb while Glenn Maxwell has been at his explosive best. Only worry for Australia is the inconsistent show of Shane Watson. But the kind of player he is, Watson may quickly turn the tables. As far as bowling is concerned, Australia look more settled than India.
Both camps are unsure about the nature of Jamtha wicket but it won’t be different to other wickets in the series. With the VCA outfield closely shaven, the ball will travel faster. Expect another run feast!
MS Dhoni*†, R Ashwin, S Dhawan, RA Jadeja, V Kohli, B Kumar, A Mishra, Mohammed Shami, SK Raina, AT Rayudu, I Sharma, RG Sharma, JD Unadkat, R Vinay Kumar, Yuvraj Singh
GJ Bailey*, NM Coulter-Nile, XJ Doherty, JP Faulkner, CJ Ferguson, AJ Finch, BJ Haddin†, MC Henriques, PJ Hughes, MG Johnson, CJ McKay, GJ Maxwell, AC Voges, SR Watson