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Can the Aussies bounce back at the Gabba?

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CRUNCH GAME: Australia will look to Ricky Ponting to lead the way in the second final in Brisbane on Tuesday.
CRUNCH GAME: Australia will look to Ricky Ponting to lead the way in the second final in Brisbane on Tuesday.

S. Dinakar

India will be keen to finish things off in the second final

Brisbane: The heat will be on the world champion at the Gabba. Australia is just a game away from losing the CB tri-series. Rather, India is just one game away from an epoch-making triumph.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s young team has exceeded expectations. It also has the momentum in its favour.

Under normal circumstances, Australia would be the favourite against any opposition at the Gabba. The surface, which has pace, bounce and movement, has been a happy hunting ground for the Aussies.

But then, these are not normal times for Ricky Ponting and his men. The Australian batting in the series has had several chinks, the skipper’s inconsistency at the crucial No. 3 slot not the least among them. This line-up has been vulnerable against precise seam and swing bowling right through the series.

Ishant Sharma, in particular, has tested the Australian batsmen. However, there are concerns in the Indian camp over the strike bowler’s fitness. Will his swollen bowling middle finger improve sufficiently on the morning of the match?

Four pacemen

The Indians have adopted the ‘horses for courses’ policy in the series and young leggie Piyush Chawla, despite a creditable display at the SCG, is likely to make way for a paceman. India may play four specialist pacemen.

S. Sreesanth had troubled Australia with his outswingers in the league game between the sides here and could relish the conditions. Munaf Patel’s inclusion could depend on Ishant’s fitness.

Irfan Pathan proved expensive at the SCG but his batting ability in case only six specialist batsmen are picked again could save his place. The humid conditions in Brisbane could assist the left-armer’s swing. Light spells of rain have been forecast for Tuesday.

Early strikes from the pacemen will be critical. Praveen Kumar has been a revelation both at the beginning of the innings as well as the death. Can he make an early dent in the Aussie innings again?

Bowl first

The Gabba has a reputation of being a ‘bowl first’ wicket. Inserting the opposition and utilising the early assistance from the pitch has often been the mantra for success at this venue.

Predictably, the Indian top-order will be in sharp focus. Sachin Tendulkar was inspirational in the first final. Despite being bothered by a groin injury, Tendulkar is likely to play.

The Kookaburra ball does plenty early on and Brett Lee will be a factor. If the early overs are seen through with minimal loss, batting will be an easier task against a ball that does not really encourage reverse swing. Moreover, there is the mandatory change of the ball after the 34th over.

Tuesday’s match could be Adam Gilchrist’s last international game. The adorable cricketer will not be short of motivation. But then, his major innings in this series have come against Sri Lanka. Matthew Hayden batted with flair and focus at the SCG but got out at the wrong time.

Interestingly, both of Ponting’s hundreds against India on the tour in the Adelaide Test and the league game at the SCG were constructed on flat tracks. When the ball has jagged around, he has been opened up.

Among the middle-order batsmen, only Michael Clarke and to a lesser extent Michael Hussey have been consistent. The Aussies need to put runs on the board.

With Rohit Sharma striking form, India has less batting worries but faces a challenge on what could be a seaming track. Paceman Stuart Clark is expected to replace spinner Brad Hogg, another cricketer on the verge of retirement.

In the ODI contests between the teams this summer, India and Australia have two wins each with the game at the Gabba evenly poised when rain ended the contest.

Only on three occasions has Australia lost the first final and roared back to win the tri-series. India will seek to finish things at the Gabba. Can the Aussies take the finals to Adelaide?

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), S. Tendulkar, R. Uthappa, G. Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, I. Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, I. Sharma, M. Patel, V. Sehwag, P. Chawla, D. Karthik, S. Raina and M. Tiwary.

Australia: R. Ponting (capt.), A. Gilchrist, M. Hayden, M. Clarke, A. Symonds, M. Hussey, J. Hopes, B. Lee, M. Johnson, N. Bracken, S. Clark, B. Hogg and B. Haddin.

Umpires: T. Hill & S. Taufel; Match Referee: J. Crowe.

Match starts at 8.45 a.m. IST.

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