While Australia have already wrapped up the five-match ODI series, out-of-sorts Team India will play for bruised pride in the fourth one-day international when the two teams take field on Wednesday at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.
On a venue where even the hosts haven’t played much, things can go India’s way but MS Dhoni men need to fire on all cylinders in every department if they need to open their account in the series.
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It has been a sorry outing for India so far Down Under, where they have lost all three previous ODIs despite putting more-than-decent totals on the board. Australia chased down targets of 310, 309 and 296 to take a series-winning 3-0 lead.
Top-order batting has been India’s lone high point during the series so far – with bowling and fielding a big let down. Dropping simple and important catches, missing run-out opportunities and schoolboy fielding in the deep have occurred in all the three games.
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Indian bowling is going from bad to worse in every game – with bowlers failing to pick up wickets and not able to put any pressure on Australian batsmen. Dhoni surely has a tough job on his hands and will have to pull out all stops for the Canberra ODI in the bowling department.
After a couple of good games, Barinder Sran leaked runs in the third ODI but that could be seen as an off day and he is likely to retain his place in the playing XI. Pacer Umesh Yadav has bowled well in bursts but has been expensive at crucial moments Ishant Sharma has also been a letdown in the series. But with lack of bench strength, both may still retain their respective places.
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One encouraging sign for Dhoni is Australian batsmen struggling a bit to pick Jadeja in the last game, which gives him all the more reason to bring back his premier spinner.
Ashwin’s return will mean one of India’s last-match debutants, Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat Maan, making way for the senior pro.
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On the batting front, India have looked solid in all the three ODIs at top of the order. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have dominated Aussie bowlers without any trouble. Meanwhile, Shikhar Dhawan, who failed in the first two ODIs found his form back with a solid fifty in the last game. Skipper Dhoni also contributed with the bat on the previous occasion with a little cameo.
Five-time World Champions Australia have now won 18 matches in a row at home, equalling West Indies’ record; they now have the chance to rewrite history.
Australia will thank their batsmen for the series win. The likes of George Bailey, Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell are in fine form and have helped the hosts chase down challenging totals on all three occasions.
David Warner is back from paternity leave, and given the nature of the wicket, Nathan Lyon, who has also been included for the last two ODIs, seems a certain inclusion in the playing eleven for Australia. Warner’s return would mean Marsh might have to miss out despite looking good in the chances he has got.
On the other hand, Australia’s bowling is a bit of worry as well. Without the services of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, Australiaâ€™s bowling attack looks quite ordinary and the pacers have leaked too many runs for their skipper’s liking.
Apart from John Hastings, who picked up four wickets in the previous game, none of the bowlers have impressed. Scott Boland, Joel Paris, and Kane Richardson have been ineffective and James Faulkner has only impressed in bits. Lyon might get a chance ahead of Richardson for the fourth ODI.
With Australia batting so deep and dominant, Indian bowlers have their task cut out once again in an encounter which promises to go down the wire, considering Indian bowlers learn from their previous mistakes.
As far as avoiding a 5-0 whitewash is concerned, in his own words: “If they [India’s bowlers] have learned from their mistakes, they will stop it.â€