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India vs Australia | India Look to End Successful Tour on a High in Melbourne

Cricketnext Staff |January 17, 2019, 4:38 PM IST
India vs Australia | India Look to End Successful Tour on a High in Melbourne

Three three-match One-Day International series between Australia and India is in the most interesting possible situation going into the decider. Australia 1, India 1, with winner to take all at the iconic MCG in Melbourne on Friday (January 18).

Things are gradually falling in place for both sides. Australia came into the series in poor form, low confidence, and with questions over their combinations. Two games in, they've made good strides in identifying some key options for the World Cup. India were largely settled and in form, and have taken steps towards filling in some crucial gaps in their line up.

One of those biggest gaps is the middle order batting. While the top three have scored the bulk of the runs for India in ODIs, there have been question marks over the batsmen who follow. The two games have given India plenty of pointers in that direction.

By now, it's clear that India are going to stick to MS Dhoni, at No. 5, no matter what. Virat Kohli made it clear after the second game, saying "there's no doubt he should be in the side". Dhoni had a poor 2018 but has made a good start to the new year with two successive half-centuries, the second helping India past the line in a tense chase. An in-form and confident Dhoni will do wonders to the Indian side.

But it's also clear by now that Dhoni cannot do the job alone. He needs help from his partners, and that cannot always be Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, particularly in the fag end of the innings. That's where Dinesh Karthik's 14-b1ll 25* in Adelaide will please India. Karthik has been identified for the finishing role - above Kedar Jadhav who can bowl - and if he fills in consistently, India will not need to rely completely on the top three.

While the two wicketkeepers have shown promising signs, there are slight doubts developing over Ambati Rayudu. He seemed to have made the No. 4 spot his own with good performances against Windies, but has struggled in Australia so far (0 off 2 and 24 off 6), perhaps owing to lack of top-class cricket. Rohit has openly said he 'personally' prefers Dhoni at No. 4, and if Rayudu fails a few more times, the pressure could mount.

For the middle order to take its time to settle in, it's imperative that the top three keep firing. Rohit and Kohli already have centuries in the series, and Shikhar Dhawan played a nice little cameo in Adelaide which he'll want to extend in Melbourne.

The other pointer India have got so far is about their third seam-bowling option once Jasprit Bumrah returns. The newcomers - Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj - have struggled, while Mohammed Shami has done a decent job. India might consider playing Yuzvendra Chahal in place of Siraj, considering the size of MCG. Most importantly for India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has put behind a poor 2018 and picked up four wickets in Adelaide.

Australia too have taken steps towards identifying a core group for the World Cup. They have posted close to 300 in both the matches, thanks to a firing middle order. Shaun Marsh has led the way with scores of 54 and 131, while Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb also have half-centuries. Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell have done their finishing duties well, adding power in the lower-middle order.

What Australia will want now is more contribution from openers Alex Carey and Aaron Finch. Carey has 42 and Finch 12 runs in the series.

Australia's bowling, without Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, has done a decent job. That's largely thanks to Jhye Richardson, with Jason Behrendorff playing the supporting role. Benhrendorff is managing a sore back and has been replaced by Billy Stanlake on Friday. Australia will also want more from the experienced Peter Siddle.

In both games, India's batsmen have gone after Siddle and Lyon, identifying them as the easiest hitting options. Given the number of right-handers in the Indian line up, Australia have replaced the wicketless Lyon with Adam Zampa's leg-spin for the decider.

Conditions in Adelaide were bordering on extreme, with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. Melbourne is relatively better, which allowed a few players to cool off and watch the Australian Open tennis action on Wednesday. They'll be back in full intensity for the decider, hopefully producing another tight game. Australia seek their first series win in two years, while India will want to win a successful tour on a high.

Squads:

Australia (XI): Aaron Finch(capt), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Jhye Richardson, Billy Stanlake, Peter Siddle, Adam Zampa.

India: Virat Kohli(capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, K Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar.

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4 Australia 5543 111
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