India and Australia are all set to enter the final leg of the bilateral limited overs tour as the two teams now prepare to faceoff in the shortest version of the game – T20Is.
The ODI series was entertaining but mostly one-sided as the scoreline of 4-1 in favour of India suggests. This series loss has now amplified Australia’s shaky form in the recent times. Their swift exit in the Champions Trophy 2017, forced by uncontrollable circumstance more than the outcomes of the contests, was already an uneasy thing to digest as they entered the tournament as one of the favourites. Lack of consistency, over-dependence of a couple of key players, are some of the issues that need to be addressed quickly.
The margin of error will be meagre quite understandably in the T20 format. So, therefore, Australia needs to critically avoid committing the sort of mistakes which they engaged in the ODI series. Letting away the early advantage with the ball, middle order slumps and lack of competitiveness will drag them closer to a loss as India will be not in a mood to loosen up the strings in any case.
Kohli & Co. will be pleased to see their spin bowlers and death bowling strategies work successfully against their opposition. Going into the first contest, these two factors will be the critical string points for India. The likes of Hardik Pandya, comeback man Hardik Pandya and not to forget ‘homeboy’ MS Dhoni will be under the spotlight and will look to impress the Ranchi crowd.
Both teams have a changed face to their squads. India has included Ashish Nehra and Dinesh Karthik while Australia has five new faces in their team who are Dan Christian, Moises Henriques, Tim Paine, Andrew Tye and Jason Behrendorff.
As far as the starting XI is concerned, India will likely add Nehra in the bowling attack considering his experience and effectiveness, Karthik may find it tough to break into the batting order, and his chances will be mainly dependent on Kohli’s decision to include Manish Pandey. Pandey was a notable underperformer in the ODI series and may lose his place if the Kohli decides to go with the reputation of Karthik.
Shikhar Dhawan, who was rested for the ODI leg, will also make a comeback to the top with Rohit Sharma. Kl Rahul, the other opener, is also in the scheme of things but may not be able to beat Dhawan for a place in the top order.
In the Australian camp, the only actively likely change in the Xi looks in the form of left-arm fast bowler Jason Behrendorff. After earning his maiden call-up, the Western Australia speedster will be eagerly looking forward to making his debut.
India starts as the favourites yet again, but the new look Australian side is fully capable of putting up a cute show.
The JSCA Stadium has hosted only One T20I so far which was last year on February 12. It was a one-sided tie which Indian won comfortably by 69 runs. After putting up 196/6 on the board batting first, Indian bundled out Sri Lanka for just 127 with the help of reliable spells from R Ashwin (3/14) and Ashish Nehra (2/26).
One game is not much of historical data to figure out which factors the venue supports. But, expect damp conditions as it is raining in Ranchi. A day ago, heavy downpours forced the practice sessions to be called off.
In this conditions, the Indian spinners may prove to be very difficult to cope. Australia has some high-quality all-rounders but, at the end of the day, it may not be enough against the settled Indian batting order.