Hosts may tinker with the playing XI in Mohali; Australia upbeat after impressive win at Ranchi
Given a choice, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri would have preferred to indulge in “experiments” in a ‘dead rubber’ or two. With Australia preventing India from taking a winning lead in the five-match series at Ranchi, the host is left to deal with some unfinished business here on Sunday.
For Kohli, sticking to a “winning combination” comes naturally. Irrespective of what the National selectors think, he focuses on winning, without wasting time on trying out those on the bench.
No wonder, Siddarth Kaul warmed the bench at Hyderabad and Nagpur before making way for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Despite holding a 2-1 lead, India faces a few worries. The openers have not clicked. More often than not, the batsmen invested time in the middle without making it count. Worse, the spinners have proved far less effective than expected.
Meeting fire with fire
The decision to rest M.S. Dhoni for the last two matches should bring relief to an already-upbeat Australian dressing room. Even otherwise, the win in the previous match showed the visitors were ready to meet fire with fire.
Against an increasingly-assured Aussie attack, the Indian batsmen have not been able to dominate, even in home conditions. In contrast, the Australian spinners have enhanced their reputation against the circumspect Indians in this series.
On Sunday, the Kohli-Shastri duo could reluctantly bring in K.L. Rahul as the first-choice opener Shikhar Dhawan is struggling for form.
Chahal may get the nod
Yuzvendra Chahal could get his first game of the series with the certainty of Rishabh Pant coming in for Dhoni. Given the conditions here, Bhuvneshwar could well replace an injured Mohammed Shami.
After the much-believed ‘law of averages’ favoured Aaron Finch at Ranchi, Ambati Rayudu must be hoping for a similar twist to his tale.
Among the bowlers, barring Jasprit Bumrah, others have looked less than impressive.
Though India is just a win away from sealing another home series, there appears very little to separate the teams. In the first two matches, Australia did create opportunities to win but could not deliver the knockout punch.
Aussies will come hard
In the third, it was Australia all the way in spite of Kohli doing his bit to change the script. The hosts will have to bring out their best to clinch the series. Clearly, Australia can again be expected to come hard against the frontline batsmen.
Though Australia is worried about losing wickets in a bunch in the middle overs, it can take heart from the showings in the first and third PowerPlays.
Overall, India continues to look vulnerable once the top-order, particularly Kohli, departs. No doubt, the Australians know how to hurt India. Unless the Indian top-order comes up with a fitting counter-attack, Australia can be expected to ride on the gains of Ranchi.
In short, should the Indian batting play to its potential, the series could well stand decided here. The pitch looks good for batting but the nip in the light breeze, under the lights, could well swing the contest decisively.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and K.L. Rahul.
Australia: Aaron Finch (Capt.), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Alex Carey, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Nathan Lyon.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.