India under pressure against a resurgent Australia
Ranchi: Bogged down by the profligacy of their bowlers, especially Ishant Sharma, India would be under pressure to bounce back when they take on Australia in the fourth ODI here tomorrow, hoping to tide over their death bowling miseries.
Trailing 1-2 after the loss in the third ODI in Mohali, India who retained the same eleven in the first three matches may be forced to tinker with the bowling line-up which has failed to live upto expectations.
Defending a huge target of 304, India were on course for a comfortable win in the third one-dayer at Mohali with 44 needed from the last three overs, but a wayward Ishant leaked 30 runs in the 48th overs with James Faulkner smashing four sixes and two fours to turn the match in Australia's favour.
Introduction of two new balls, coupled with change in field restriction with fielders in the deep being reduced to four from five, has hit the Indian camp as the pacers are struggling to cope up with the alteration of rules. Known for their lack of pace and swing, Indian pacers rely more on reverse swing on the flat pitches after the ball becomes old but the new rule has unsettled the hosts badly.
While batsmen have been in top form, it's the bowlers who have conceded 300-plus runs in all the three ODIs with poor spells in the death overs, something that would be the team management's main concern.
Ishant and R Vinay Kumar have been expensive with both conceding seven-plus runs per over but the latter has been at least among wickets and that might go in his favour. At 5.37, the third pacer, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, has been 'economical'.
After the disgraceful 48th over in Mohali, Ishant may not retain his place in the team and could be replaced by left-arm medium pacer Jayadev Unadkat, who is expected to bring some variety to the monotonous pace attack.
With the JSCA Stadium in Dhurwa in the outskirts of Ranchi giving some hints for spin assistance, leg-spinner Amit Mishra might be included in the playing XI. Allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, who had match-winning figures of 3/19 against England in the last ODI here nine months ago, would be all excited to be back at his favourite ground.
As for the batsmen, the new ODI rules are helping them revel on flat Indian pitches, making a mockery of the bowlers. An astounding 1864 runs came from the six innings and the Indian young guns -- Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli -- chased down 360 inside 44 overs in the second ODI in Jaipur to prove that no target was safe.
In Mohali, India had a middle order collapse to slump to 76/4 and were tottering at 154/6 before Dhoni's masterly 139 not out from 121 balls ensured another 300-plus total. Ranchi, however, saw a low-scoring total (155 all out) with England struggling against the Indian slower bowlers in the last match here. Hence, it would be interesting to see what this venue has to offer to the teams this time when 300 had become the norm.
Three Indian batsmen have scored a century each so far. Rohit hit his first hundred at Jaipur since 2010, while Virat Kohli is in ominous form with two half-centuries and a hundred. Dhoni has also scored a valuable ton. The batting looks more or less settled with almost everyone in the top and middle order having contributed to the team's cause.
Comeback man Yuvraj Singh, however, has been silent after his fiery 77 not out in the one-off T20I in Rajkot and the stylish left-hander would be keen to back among runs. Australians have so far shown that they are all up for the Indian challenge, and come tomorrow they would be keen to extend their lead.
Thanks to the IPL, the Aussies have looked at ease against the Indian bowling. In Aaron Finch and Phillip Hughes, they have an attacking opening combination who have given them fine starts till now, while the middle and lower order also looked in good nick.
India would be wary of Aussie batting, especially after Faulkner's 29-ball 64 not out at No 8 position in Mohali. Australia have also proved to be a better bowling unit and barring the exception in Jaipur, the pacers have been economical with Mitchell Johnson, who grabbed 4/46 in Mohali, leading the pack. With sheer pace and bounce, the likes of Johnson and Shane Watson have lived up to the challenges.
Aussie T20 skipper George Bailey, who is leading the side in absence of an injured Michael Clarke, is revelling in the new role and has emerged as the highest run-scorer (220 runs) so far at the series. With a calm approach, Bailey who had also captained Australia in the the Champions Trophy and the recent bilateral series against Sri Lanka, has made an impression.
Teams (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c, wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami and Jaydev Unadkat.
Australia: George Bailey (c), Phillip Hughes, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (wk), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Callum Ferguson and Moises Henriques.
Match starts at 1.30 pm (IST).