Four years back when India took on Australia in the sixth ODI of the seven-match series at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium here in Jamtha, the hosts had an arduous task of pulling the series back on level terms. They did manage to do so before going on to clinch the decider at Bangalore.
This time, however, the series had already been decided going into the fourth game in Bangalore. But although India hold an unassailable 3-1 lead, the final match on Sunday can’t be dismissed as a dead rubber. A loss would not just raise questions about Virat Kohli’s rotational policy but hurt India’s morale, having lost the previous game.
Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah had made way for Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami in the fourth ODI. But the changes backfired as Australia piled up 334. However, the skipper is likely to continue experimenting with the playing eleven and test the bench strength. KL Rahul might also get a nod if Kohli sticks to his rotation plans as the Karnataka batsman is yet to feature in the series.
— BCCI (@BCCI) September 30, 2017
Manish Pandey’s woes
While Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav have played to potential, scoring at least one half-century in the series, Pandey’s performance has been unsteady.
Batting at No 4 in the first two ODIs, Manish Pandey was out for 0 and 3, but pushed to No 6 in a swap with Hardik Pandya in the next two games, he made 36 not out and 33 off 25 balls in Bangalore going in to bat in the 38th over.
A swap with KL Rahul thus won’t be a surprise, although Rahul too scored just 28 runs in three innings after being slotted in the middle-order in Sri Lanka.
Since the return of Aaron Finch in the last two games, Australia have not lost their second wicket before crossing 200, having failed to go past 20 in the first two matches when he sat out due to a calf strain.
If there’s a similar start for Australia on Sunday, they will look to cash in again. But if the Indian bowlers make a breakthrough early on, it’ll be interesting to see how the middle-order responds. Skipper Steve Smith already has two half-centuries and Peter Handscomb chipped in with a 30-ball 43 in Bangalore but Travis Head (78 in four matches) and Glenn Maxwell (58 in three matches) have failed to provide support in the middle. Maxwell was dropped for the last game and coach David Saker pointed to his inconsistency. It remains to be seen if Head too faces a similar action.
India would want to end things on a high and achieve a scoreline that reflects the hosts’ dominance. The top spot in the ODI rankings is also up for grabs for India after they slipped to second (South Africa have regained the top spot) following their loss in the fourth ODI that ended their unbeaten run at nine games.