For all their romantic allure, rain can be pretty frustrating for a cricketer. As one watched George Bailey’s boys “sweat it up” ahead of their potentially decisive encounter against India at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium here on Wednesday, the change in weather seemed to be welcomed by everyone.
Such enthusiasm must flow from the 2-1 advantage that Australia enjoys in this series. A win in one of the remaining two matches will mean the Aussies’ record in bilateral series in India will remain flattering.
This is Australia’s third seven-match ODI series in India. The men-in-yellow were successful on the previous two tours, wrapping up the series with a win in the sixth ODI.
Though not much should be read into those conquests, Australia will hope to reinforce the significance of the penultimate match.
Despite the visitors being ranked second in the world, many expected India to place daylight between itself and the opposition by the end of the series.
With batsmen enjoying greater benefits from the rule changes in ODI cricket, such optimism sprung from the perception that India’s batting prowess would be enough to outplay the Aussies. A grain of truth could certainly be extracted from that claim but it failed to take into account the Indian bowlers’ inability to back the batting performance.
Australia lowest total in this series has been 295, and another big score seems likely at the VCA Stadium. In the six ODIs played here, teams batting first have scored less than 292 only once.
However, four of those fixtures were won by sides chasing a total.
On the positive side for India, it defeated Australia in the first ever 50-over game held here in 2009. India, though, has lost its last two matches at this venue since.
Ahead of the match, Bailey suggested that Australia would field an unchanged team as continuity has helped his side to excel. After introducing Mohammad Shami and Jaydev Unadkat at the expense of Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in Ranchi, it seems Dhoni will persist with the same eleven as well.
Shami’s opening spell in the fourth ODI would have eased the skipper’s worries a little as he got the ball to move at considerable pace.
However, with the rest of the bowlers yet to contribute significantly, the batsmen may once again have to bear the burden.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, R. Vinay Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra and Ambati Rayudu.
Australia: George Bailey (capt.), Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Phillip Hughes, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Callum Ferguson and Moises Henriques.
Umpires: Nigel Llong and S. Ravi; Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni.
Match referee: Andrew Pycroft.