Nagpur: The series might have been won and lost, but there is no such thing as a dead rubber when it comes to an India and Australia contest.
Australia came into this limited-overs tour of India having lost eight of its last ten One-Day Internationals away from home. And the two it didn’t lose were rain-affected no results.
India has been on a roll this year, winning all four bilateral series it has played so far and reaching the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final. But Australia snapped India’s winning streak at nine ODIs with a pride-salvaging 21-run win in Bangalore.
Going into the final match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Sunday, both teams still have a lot to play for. A 2-3 scoreline will be crucial for Australia’s confidence to carry some positive energy into the Twenty20 International leg of the series and furthermore to the Ashes in November. India has two series lined up at home, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, before heading to South Africa, and can test its bench strength.
Australia has had its moments in each of the team's three losses. The bowlers had reduced India to 87 for 5 in Chennai before the match ended in a 26-run defeat. Then the visiting side restricted the host to a sub-par 252 in Kolkata before the batsmen failed to fire in a 50-run loss.
In Indore, Australia was 224 for 1 with more than 12 overs remaining before a late implosion and a clinical Indian batting display secured a 3-0 scoreline.
The monkey was finally off Australia’s back in Bangalore when David Warner and Aaron Finch set up a healthy total of 334 for 5. Although the bowlers lacked discipline at the start, the trio of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson more than made up towards the end.
India has ticked most boxes on their way to the series win. With Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli doing the bulk of the scoring at the start, the top order wears a settled look. But it is the middle order that has been shuffled constantly and needs some working.
Hardik Pandya has transformed into a mature allrounder, showing his ability to adapt with crucial knocks and picking important wickets.
However, Pandya’s elevation to No. 4 meant MS Dhoni had to walk out at No. 7, where he might no longer be the best candidate. Given how he takes time to settle in and finish clinically, there is a strong case for Dhoni batting higher up, preferably at No. 5.
Both Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav didn’t contribute as much as they were expected to in the 3-0 scoreline, but in Bangalore, the latter provided a crucial breakthrough when India’s reserve bowlers, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Axar Patel struggled. He even followed it up with a timely half-century. Pandey is yet to produce a defining knock, and could perhaps be replaced by his Karnataka team-mate KL Rahul.
India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Steven Smith (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), Peter Handscomb (wk), James Faulkner, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson.
Pitch and condition
Nagpur curator said a good contest on newly-laid surface at VCA Stadium.
Stats and trivia
The last ODI played at VCA stadium was also between India and Australia with the hosts chasing down 350 four years ago.
Sunday October 1, 2017 (d/n)
Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)