Chennai, Mar 21 (IANS): The three-match ODI series against Australia following the four Tests for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy were expected to give a glimpse into India's preparations for this year's ODI World Cup at home.
The selectors were planning to Test some players before they finalise the squad for the World Cup. But going into the third match, the selectors may not be much wiser than at the start as the matches have exposed some chinks in the armour.
Both teams have won one match each thus matching the Chennai ODI, the series decider and the last chance for the Aussies to test the fitness of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell before the September ODIs in India and the World Cup.
Playing without skipper Rohit Sharma, who sat out the match to attend a marriage in his extended family, India rode on an unbeaten 75 by seasoned KL Rahul and his unfinished century partnership with allrounder Ravindra Jadeja (45 not out, 2-46) to a five-wicket win in a low-scoring affair at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on March 17.
The Indian bowlers, particularly pacers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj claimed three wickets apiece as Australia were bundled out for 188. India were in trouble at 83/5 before Rahul and Jadeja came together to guide them home with nearly 60 balls to spare.
But in the second ODI on Sunday, the hosts' batting came apart spectacularly as they were bowled out for 117 in 26 overs at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam with Aussie quick Mitchell Starc claiming 5-. Virat Kohli (31) and Axar Patel 29 not out) were the only batters to make a meaningful contribution.
In reply, Travis Head and Mitchell Starc blasted unbeaten 51 and 66 runs respectively as they chased down the target in 11 overs as Australia won by 10 wickets and with 234 balls remaining.
As both India and Australia gear up for Wednesday's series decider at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, the focus will be on the batters from both sides as the bowlers have dominated the series so far. The ODIs are normally considered batsman's game but in this series, the batters failed to fire except for Mitchell Marsh and KL Rahul. Marsh has struck half-centuries in the first two matches including the majestic 65-ball 81 in the first match at Wankhede. In the second, he blasted 66 off 36 deliveries.
However, the Australian middle and lower-order batters had fared miserably in the first ODI and will be under pressure in the third match. Marsh has been sent as a makeshift opener in the absence of the seasoned David Warner. It is to be seen whether Warner will get a chance considering the way Travis Head and Marsh have batted so far in the series.
Warner is unlikely to come into the playing XI unless Australia decide to drop Head or restore Marsh to the middle or lower order. Mitchell Starc has been in excellent form for the Aussies with the ball and will be hoping for an encore in Chennai.
When it comes to India, it is to be seen whether the team management gives another chance to Suryakumar Yadav, the T20I specialist. Yadav has not done much in the previous two outings but after the second ODI, captain Rohit Sharma said that they still have faith in him.
The Indian batters, especially opener Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav are due a big knock and India will be in a very good position to win the match if one or two of them get firing on Wednesday.
Focus will also be on skipper Rohit Sharma, who is expecting to become the 15th batter in ODI cricket to reach the 10,000-run milestone.
The focus will be the pitch as the strips for the first two matches were not that conducive for batting, though, after the second ODI, Rohit Sharma said it was not a 117-run wicket.
It is to be seen what is in store in the MA Chidambaram Stadium and how the Indian batters adapt to the situation..
India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj,
Australia: David Warner, Travis Head, Steven Smith (capt), Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Jos Inglis, Cameron Green, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar. Nathan Ellis, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa.