India would like to avenge its last series defeat against a formidable Australian team. India would like to avenge its last series defeat against a formidable Australian team.

 

Muggy weather and overcast conditions gripping parts of England may have halted practice sessions for the Indian team but players, sitting in their hotel rooms, must have visualised and rehearsed in their minds by now of what to expect from an in-form Australian team.

Reason: A remarkable comeback against the West Indies at Trent Bridge and their latest run in the ODIs. Both the teams now prepare itself for a showdown at the Kennington Oval on Sunday.

And the Indians would be hoping that lightning does strike twice for them after registering a comfortable win against South Africa. Although, no one was flabbergasted with the result. Proteas were already dilapidated, after the loss of its crucial players, just waiting to crumble. India now faces probably its biggest test against a strong and formidable Australian team that may well win the title again.

Both the teams have had a very different journey post the 2015 World Cup. While India have remained one of the top two teams consistently, Australia hit rock bottom in 2018, winning only two out of 13 ODIs, their worst since 1978 when they played two ODIs and came up trumps once, losing the second.

But no other team knows better than the Aussies how to steady the sinking ship and take it aground. Somehow the team were able to unlock the winning formula this year in India and beat them after trailing 2-0 in a five match series. They, sans Smith and Warner, smoked Pakistan in UAE 5-0, proving that the series win in India was not a fluke.

Even after losing almost half of their side below 80, Australia went on to score 288 runs in 49 overs, showcasing the depth of their batting prowess against a resurgent West Indies. If David Warner failed, Steve Smith stepped up and became a glue for the team around which batsmen like Nathan Coulter-Nile and Alex Carey revolved. Subsequently, their best bowler, Mitchell Starc, took a five-for and ripped apart West Indies batting line-up, successfully halting West Indies chase.

How good is India’s top order at the moment?

In India’s case, things look more sorted than ever with all the bases covered. Much will hinge on the top order troika—Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Rohit’s century and return to form came as a much needed relief after an average IPL and cold warm-up games and it’s just a matter of time in case of Dhawan for he knows how to make a comeback in big games.

What is it that Kohli needs to worry ahead of their clash against Australia?

It’s their number four muddle. Although it seemed that the long-standing debate over the conundrum have finally been put to rest after KL Rahul’s century against Bangladesh, it came back to bite once again against South Africa after he failed to capitalise on a well constructed innings of 26. He looks like a million dollars on the 22-yard strip when scoring but his inconsistent run in the 50-overs format may well be attributed to his temperamental problem. Perhaps this remains the only hair in the soup.

So what comes as a comforting prospect in the middle order for India?

It is the return of form of MS Dhoni. He is renowned for his lightning speed hands behind the stumps and very few people notice the fact that he still averages near about 50 in the ODI format. Dhoni has carried on with his IPL exploits and looks in sublime touch with the bat. His guile in strategies always comes more than handy for the captain.

What would be India’s most powerful weapon come the match?

Jasprit Bumrah. He is more important than the world’s best batsman Virat Kohli. Not to discount his importance in the team but remove Virat Kohli and the team can still manage to reach a respectable total because of the presence of Dhawan, Rohit and others. Keep Bumrah out of the bowling line-up and it will lack in firepower. He can bowl yorkers at his own volition, clean up opposition with a barrage of short balls. He has the pace and movement one can only dream of. The rest of the bowlers—Shami, Bhuvneshwar, Pandya compliment him well.

India’s wrist spinners could well be the decisive factor and difference between the two teams. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal removed half the South African side and they would be looking forward to repeat their performance.

Conditions

A few isolated showers is expected during the afternoon. The team winning the toss would like to bat first as chase has been difficult so far in the tournament.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar, Rohit Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav

Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon.

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