Bengaluru: Both teams have traded punches thus far, but who can land the knockout blow in the decider in Bengaluru on Sunday, 19 January?
It was a series billed as a showdown between two heavyweights and it has lived up to that. Both have traded punches and the contest will go down to the deciding round.
Australia drew first blood, winning their fourth successive one-day international on Indian soil in Mumbai. It jolted India. If there were any doubts regarding that, they should have been cleared when India stopped their contentious experimentation with their top three. And it worked well. KL Rahul’s adaptability meant that not only could Virat Kohli take back his favoured No.3 position, but that Rahul also could find success at his new No.5 spot. But with Shreyas Iyer flattering to deceive at No.4, could Rahul be in for another promotion?
India’s bowlers, too, bounced back from the thrashing they received at the hands of Aaron Finch and David Warner in the opener. Jasprit Bumrah was back at his accurate best and, in the company of Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini, shut the doors on a late fightback by unfurling a series of yorkers. Kuldeep Yadav, though expensive, fulfilled his primary role – that of a wicket-taker – by snuffing out Steve Smith and Alex Carey in the same over that turned the game.
Australia’s hopes of resting some of their senior fast bowlers and testing their bench strength have vanished, with the series up for grabs in Bengaluru. They could still consider bringing in Josh Hazlewood for Kane Richardson.
Australia will be pleased no end by the continued success of Adam Zampa, who keeps finding ways to get on top of Kohli, and by Marnus Labuschagne, who gave a good account of himself in his first outing in one-day colours.
With the series on the line, expect both teams to come out in full force and field full-strength XIs. For India, that will depend on the extent of the injuries to Shikhar Dhawan, who was struck on the ribs while batting and did not field, and Rohit Sharma, who went down clutching his left shoulder after diving to save a boundary in the deep. But both batsmen appear to be on track for a full recovery, while Rishabh Pant, too, should be back from the concussion that kept him out in Rajkot.
India’s top three set a solid foundation, before KL Rahul capitalised on it to power them to 340/6. Their bowlers then choked Australia with a flurry of wickets in the second half of the chase, and a bagful of yorkers in the slog overs, to end Australia’s resistance on 304.
Virat Kohli, India captain: “We know exactly what we’re doing in the change room. On the outside, there’s a lot of panic that we don’t really focus on.”
Aaron Finch, Australia captain: “They played very well. The whole way through the [first] innings, we were one wicket shy of containing then where they needed to be.”
A mostly clear and sunny day awaits in Bengaluru. The M Chinnaswamy Stadium has been a favoured hunting ground for the visitors, who have won each of their last three limited-overs internationals at this venue.