Can India find a solution at No 4 and the dew?
Dew or no dew? It is the question on everyone's lips at the moment ahead of the fifth and the deciding match at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi. In both of India's losses in the series, the hosts have cited the ‘dew factor' as one of the reasons for their failures. In the pre-match press conference, bowling coach Bharat Arun also bought up topic, stating that while the team didn't want to make excuses, it was important for the bowlers to find a solution if the ball does get wet.
One simple way to overcome the issue is for India to field first. However, if Aaron Finch does win the toss, chances are that Australia will decide to chase, given the way they tracked down India's imposing total of 359 on Sunday. The toss could play a pivotal role in the match with the ground staff expecting the outfield to be affected by the dew in the latter half of the game. It is probably fair to suggest that this Indian team has played its best cricket when external elements such as the dew factor have not been dwelled upon too much.
The Indian team didn't train on Wednesday with Arun stating,"It is due to workload and two back-to-back matches to be mentally and physically fresh for the big game". This, of course, is the last match before the World Cup and in a way, India will be delighted to test themselves in a high-pressure game.
The hosts have been nowhere close to their best in this series and Kohli will be hoping his men can be relentless for 100 overs. In a must-win game, it will be interesting to see who bats at No 4 for India. When asked if Vijay Shankar could be trialed at No 4 in the deciding match, Arun stated he was in no position to disclose any details. It is believed Ambati Rayudu has the backing of the team management for the World Cup meaning, KL Rahul will get another chance in Delhi.
Mohammed Shami has been declared fit, but India are expected to stick with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. The short boundaries at the Kotla along with the sluggish pitch could present another opportunity for Ravindra Jadeja, meaning either Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal will be forced to carry the drinks.
The deciding match is shaping as an important one for India from all counts. The hosts have not lost an ODI series at home since October 2015 and will be desperate to keep that record intact. The Australian side, in the meantime, will be hoping to create history by becoming the first ever Australian team to win a five-match series after trailing 2-0.
The heroic chase in Mohali is bound to give the visitors plenty of confidence. Apart from Shaun Marsh, every other batsman has played an innings of great significance in the series. Add to that the fact that Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb handled India's spin twins during the middle stages quite well, a sign that Australia has overcome their major weakness in the ODI arena.
Pat Cummins was almost a forgotten man in Mohali with Handscomb and Ashton Turner grabbing all the limelight. The Australian quick has been the best bowler in the series with 12 wickets at 15.16. Add to that, he is the only bowler to have a strike-rate below 20 and an economy rate below 5. India needs to conjure up a plan to attack Cummins. If they can do that then it will put additional pressure on rest of the bowling unit.
Australia are likely to be unchanged for the fifth match with Marcus Stoinis still recovering from the injury to his thumb. It means Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell will need to complete the quota of 10 overs from the fifth bowler. The pair conceded 83 in 11 overs in Mohali and India are bound to attack them again in Delhi.
It's been a decade since Australia won an ODI series in India, while the Aussies have lost their past seven ODI series, having last recorded victory against Pakistan in January 2017. A victory in Delhi will be regarded as one of the finest in the history of Australian cricket. But for history to be written, the visitors will need another emphatic innings from one of their top seven. Given the way the series has panned out, it is fair to say anything is possible and India will need to be superlative in all three departments to prevent the Australian juggernaut.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja
Australia: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye
Venue: Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Time: 1.30 pm IST.
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Captain Kohli, his deputy Rahane and senior opener Rohit were seen batting at the nets in a video posted by the BCCI on Twitter.
The auctions were held in Chennai on 18 February, and Australia's Glenn Maxwell and Jhye Richardson struck gold, fetching Rs 14.25 and Rs 14 crore, respectively.
Bailey - the only selector on tour in New Zealand - attributed Finch's poor form at the Big Bash, where he averaged just 13.8, to five months spent playing cricket in biosecurity bubbles.