India eager to sustain momentum

Men in Blue hold all aces against injury-hit Australia going into the Mohali ODI

India eager to sustain momentum



With a golden chance to extend the lead to 3-1, India could have done without the scare of losing two of their form batsmen. Sehwag had set the base for a big total in Nagpur while Gambhir had notched up two half-centuries in the first two matches and needless to say, it is difficult to find the right replacements for them. But India also know the situation isn’t as bad as it is in the opposition ranks.

An Australian side being pushed to the wall is a rarity and it’s the right time for India to hammer home the advantage. Plagued by a series of injuries to their key players, the visitors are at their vulnerable worst. On the other hand, India, after the narrow loss in the opening match in Vadodara, have made rapid recovery to outplay Australia in every department of the game.

The hosts almost chased down 292 in Vadodara while they defended their 354 with consummate ease in Nagpur before successfully hunting down a tricky 229 on a slow Kotla track. The bowling has been improving steadily while the effort in the outfield in Delhi’s game was by far their best in the series.      
With skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in robust form and Yuvraj Singh too getting his feet in, the hosts’ batting, one would imagine, appeared to be superior to the visitors’. But the possible absence of Sehwag and/or Gambhir, could greatly reduce their firepower.
Unwelcome development

The unwelcome development, however, provides an opportunity for Dinesh Kaarthick, summoned as a cover, or Virat Kohli or both to step up and perform. Sachin Tendulkar, just 47 runs short of 17,000 ODI runs, promised a big one on Saturday, but ran himself out. It remains to be seen if he will cross the mark in Mohali, where he also overtook Brian Lara’s record of highest number of runs in Tests.
Struggling to get their team balance right, Australia have tried different combinations in the last two matches, but the moves have come unstuck. No doubt the absence of Brett Lee, stumper-opener Tim Paine and all-rounder James Hopes is a major setback to the Australians, but among the available ones, the form of Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson too is hurting them a lot.

Watson, along with Ponting, was the architect of Australia’s title triumph in the Champions Trophy in South Africa earlier this month. His exploits with the bat and the ball meant Australia had the luxury of playing an extra batsman.
Barring a knock of 41 in Delhi’s game, Watson had done little of note with the bat while his bowling has been off the mark. The right-arm pacer has gone for a whopping 117 in 15 overs, figures that discouraged Ponting from giving him a bowl in the third game. With Lee not available, Johnson has failed to lead the pack. In a desperate measure, Ponting himself opened the innings on Saturday and though he struck a patient half-century, he couldn’t prevent his team sliding to another defeat.

But Australia can take heart in Mike Hussey’s form and Peter Siddle’s hostility with the ball. Man of the match in the first match, Hussey brought up another well-paced fifty in the third one-dayer while Siddle, bowling consistently in the vicinity of 150 kmph, has put the Indian batsmen on the back foot though he has just two wickets to show from three matches.

Unlike at the Kotla, the pitch in Mohali isn’t going to be a batsmen’s nightmare and the prospect of another batting slugfest can’t be ruled out.

The teams (from): India: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Sudeep Tyagi, Dinesh Kaarthick.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Cameron White, Shane Watson, Graham Manou (wk), Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jon Holland, Mitchell Johnson, Moises Henriques.

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