After three exhilarating ODI games, India and Australia head to the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand to play the fourth One Day International (ODI) of the seven-match ODI series. Australia snatched a victory against all odds on Saturday to come out on top in a game that saw heroic performances from players on both sides. It is Australia as a result that currently lead the series 2-1 going into the game at the Jharkhand Cricket Association Stadium (JSCA Stadium) in Ranchi on Wednesday, and the visitors know that if they can win in Ranchi, it would be near impossible for India to bounce back to win the last three matches to win the series.
India put up yet another 300+ total in an ODI at Mohali, though this time round, it was achieved after fighting their way from a middle order collapse which saw them fall to 76-4 and then to 154-6 at different stages of their innings. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both had off-days at Mohali and had a combined score of just 19 among themselves. Suresh Raina walked in for India at his new number 4 position in the batting line-up once again on Saturday, but has yet to play the inning to give the team management enough confidence to allow him to carry on at that position. Virat Kohli continued with his good run of form and remains India’s premier batsman in ODI cricket, though the real stand-out performance for India from the game at Mohali was the unbeaten, 9th ODI century struck by skipper MS Dhoni coming in at number 6. Dhoni’s 139* (121 balls) was his first ODI century in 10 months, and his effortless stroke play and strong hitting towards the end of the innings reinforced the value of Dhoni the batsman, for India in the squad. India’s performance at Mohali, after their blitz of a run chase at Jaipur, would give their batsmen the confidence to put up big totals under difficult and different circumstances.
India’s bowling has come under the scanner again, although this time there has been a strong public outcry after India’s poor death over bowling saw them concede 44 runs in the last 3 overs, thus costing them the match. India’s bowling has been well below par for the entire ODI series, with the pace bowlers being particularly wayward and inconsistent. MS Dhoni said at the toss on Saturday that he hoped to stick to the winning combination of players and to not make any changes to the playing eleven. After India’s loss at Mohali though, it seems highly unlikely that India would stick with the same Playing XI. Ishant Sharma is likely to be replaced for the Ranchi ODI game after his innocuous and consistently poor bowling at the death of the innings came to haunt him on Saturday. Australian lower-order batsman James Faulkner hit Sharma for 30 runs in the 48th over of the innings, an over that swung the game dramatically to Australia’s favour. Sharma is expected to be replaced by pacer Mohammed Shami for the next ODI, though he has retained his place in the squad for the remaining four ODIs of the series. The rest of the bowlers would also need to seriously lift their game if India are to lift their performance as a bowling unit and their stature as a top international ODI team.
Australia have gelled well as a team in their games of the India tour so far and they deservedly are leading the series 2-1. After putting in a brilliant batting effort at Jaipur, to later see the Indian batsmen come out on top in fine style, Australia would look to extend their lead in the series at Ranchi. Australia saw each of their top five batsmen put on half- centuries during their game at Jaipur, but at Mohali, it was an astonishing knock of 64* from just 29 balls that saw them romp home to an improbable victory. Australia’s batsmen have looked relatively comfortable against all types of bowling (pace and spin) in this series thus far, and been confident in their stroke-play. Australia’s top 7 batsmen all look to be in great form and whether batting first or second, Australia look capable of matching India’s famed batting line-up neck-to-neck on current form.
Australia have clearly been the better bowling side, and inspite of having to bowl to a strong batting line-up in India, the Australia bowlers have bent their backs, and deservedly reaped greater success than that of their Indian counter-parts, in the series. Mitchell Johnson was brilliant in the Mohali ODI, picking up 4 wickets en-route to a great performance on a flat wicket. Shane Watson though went for over 9.00 runs/over and has been largely wayward in the series so far, though Australia would back him to put in a better showing in the coming ODI games of the series. Xavier Doherty, Australia’s premier spinner in the series, has improved as the games have gone on, a further positive and encouraging sign for the Australians.
India : Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, B Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Ishant Sharma / M Shami / J Unadkat.
Australia: Philip Hughes, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, George Bailey (c), Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (wk), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty.
- Key Players
Virat Kohli: Batting has clearly been India’s strength in the series, and India’s premier batsman in the series, Virat Kohli has stood out for his consistency and positive stroke-play. Kohli has 2 half-centuries and a century to his name thus far from 3 games in the series, and his appetite for scoring big is crucial to India’s chances of success in the series. His value as a fielder and his part-time medium pace bowling further add to his value in the Indian team.
Mitchell Johnson: The contest that has proven to be decisive in the on-going series is that between the Indian batsmen and the Australian bowlers. Mitchell Johnson has been a stand-out performer for Australia, bowling with a great deal of control and his 4-wicket haul at Mohali was testament of his ability to spear-head the attack for Australia in ODI cricket. Johnson would now look to up his performances and aim for greater effectiveness as an opening and death overs’ bowler.
Pitch: The pitch at the JSCA Stadium in Mohali has seen a lot of domestic T-20 cricket in the recent past, with the only previous international ODI game at Ranchi played earlier in the year in January between India and England. Expect another belter of a wicket and good batting conditions, including a quick outfield and small boundaries.
Prediction: India’s bowling has been a real-let down for them, none more so than in the previous ODI at Mohali. India though should still come out on top at Ranchi on the day, owing to their greater familiarity with the conditions and the quality of the batsmen in the line-up.