During the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne in December 2018, Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team eliminated 37 years of pain to win the match by 137 runs and ensure the Border-Gavaskar Trophy remained with India. Three weeks later, Kohli’s India is on the cusp of creating even more history. With the three-match series tied 1-1, a win for India will not only give Kohli his first bilateral ODI series win Down Under but it will make India only the second side to win a series in all three formats Down Under after South Africa. Australia, on the other hand, have not won a series since their 4-1 win against Pakistan in 2017 and they will be determined to break their rut in bilateral ODI series.
The performance in Adelaide got India’s series and their quest to build momentum for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 back on track. After the blip in Sydney, the team ticked most of the boxes in the batting and bowling. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gave them a fast start but the match belonged to King Kohli, who reaffirmed his class with his 39th century and 24th in a chase. MS Dhoni also shut critics for the time being with a brilliant fifty, his 69th in ODIs and he showed glimpses of his finishing prowess to guide India over the line. In the bowling, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the key as his 4/45 ensured India did not have to chase a target in excess of 300.
However, there are still some areas of concern. Ambati Rayudu has failed with the bat and is not bowling due to his action deemed suspect, faces immense pressure. Dhawan, speaking in the pre-match press conference, has admitted that the absence of Hardik Pandya has disturbed the balance of the team. With Pandya not present and with the likes of Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj struggling in both the games, Kohli might be tempted to hand a game to Yuzvendra Chahal and hand a debut to Vijay Shankar. In order to fill the fifth bowler’s slot, Kohli could go for Kedar Jadhav, who is known to break partnerships and Shankar in order to boost the batting.
Australia under pressure
For Australia, the loss in Adelaide continued their era of inconsistency. Aaron Finch, the skipper, has suffered from poor form and he has admitted that he did get bogged down. “I am little bit frustrated. I am trying to bat a little bit longer for one thing. When you are searching for runs, you can be searching for the right recipe, and over the last couple of days, I have had a look at footage. I have seen things that have worked out when I got a hundred for Australia last, and what didn't,” Finch admitted.
With Shaun Marsh showing his brilliance and with the likes of Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell chipping in, the Australian middle order is settled. However, the bowling is a major concern. Jason Behrendorff is in doubt for the MCG game due to a back injury and Billy Stanlake could replace him. Jhye Richardson, after his exploits in Sydney, had an off day in Adelaide but he will be the key. With Nathan Lyon struggling, Australia have roped in Adam Zampa, their best bowler in the Twenty20 Internationals.
A win for Kohli will give them immense momentum for the series against New Zealand while a loss could force a rethink of their policy as time comes closer to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Vijay Shankar.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (wk), Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa