Bengaluru: There will be no let-up in intensity as a ruthless India look to inch closer to yet another series whitewash when they take on a beleaguered Australia in the fourth One-day International here tomorrow.
Virat Kohli’s team is going through a dream phase and if yesterday’s training session at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium was any indication, the winning streak is most likely to continue. The fate of the five-match series was decided after India swept aside Australia in the first three matches, leaving the possibility of an embarrassing whitewash hanging over the tourists’ heads.
While the likes of Kohli and former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have been consistently doing what they do best, Hardik Pandya’s growth as an all-rounder has added a new dimension to the team.
He slammed a fluent 78, a few days after an attacking 66-ball 83, as India comfortably chased down 294 in the last game at Indore to take an unassailable 3-0 lead. Rohit Sharma and Ajikya Rahane played their part to perfection, each scoring half-centuries in a 131-run opening partnership. If needed, India can also count on the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey to deliver the goods with the willow, though one of them could make the way for homeboy KL Rahul tomorrow.
While batting has always been their strength, India continues to impress with the ball as well. Seam bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been troubling Australia’s top-order and cramped the others for room in the death overs.
The young wrist spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav caught the attention with their very impressive showings, and India never seems to have missed Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Yadav had bamboozled the Australian batsmen in Kolkata, where he picked up a hat-trick and joined Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma.
A very good thing about this Indian batting line-up is that each batsman has managed to contribute to the team’s cause when the chips were down. When the top-order failed in the series opener, the middle and lower-order guided the team to safety. Both, though, clicked in the third ODI. Pandya has been hogging the limelight with his all-around ability and he will again be a threat to the opponents.
Going into the Ashes, Australia will desperately try to regain some momentum in the last two dead rubbers against India. Though it looks difficult at the moment, they know that a form reversal is important ahead of the Ashes.
Australia has lost 11 ODIs in a row away from home, with the exception of two washouts, albeit with eight of those defeats coming against South Africa and India. They’ve won five of their last 14 Tests with three of those wins a 3-0 clean sweep of Pakistan during the last Australian summer.
Even as Australia struggle to search for answers to contain a rampaging Indian team, one of their biggest concerns has been the failure of the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell. The visitors could not cross even 300 after centurion Aaron Finch placed them at a commanding 232 for two in 40 overs in Indore. From there, all they could muster was another 59 runs while losing four wickets. Australia will hope that skipper Stephen Smith and opener David Warner fire in the remaining games.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who was taken to the cleaners by Pandya in Chennai before being dropped, is likely to replace Ashton Agar with the left-armer in Australia having his broken finger assessed by a specialist. While part-time wicketkeeper Peter Handscomb failed in Indore, he should get another chance to prove he can replace Matthew Wade who was axed after a lean trot with the bat.
Australian pacers, especially Nathan Coulter-Nile, have been consistent with his nagging line and length. Pat Cummins has been a good foil for him. Thunderstorms are forecast on match day, but fans would be hoping that the rain stays away.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Lokesh Rahul.
Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Hilton Cartwright, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa.