- Final ODI of India’s five-match series against Australia at New Delhi on Wednesday, 13 March.
- Australia levelled the series at 2-2 by chasing down a record total of 359 in the fourth ODI at Mohali.
- India continue to remain without MS Dhoni, who has been rested for the last two ODIs.
- This is India’s final international outing ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019 in England.
India will have to quickly put behind a massive bowling failure, sloppy fielding and tactical mistakes to tame a resurgent Australia in the series-deciding fifth ODI in New Delhi on Wednesday, 13 March.
The cricketing world has applauded India's current bowling attack as one of its potent ever, but the failure to defend a mammoth total of 358 at Mohali came as a reality check for the unit.
Even the ever-reliable Jasprit Bumrah was taken to the cleaners by Ashton Turner, though the way Virat Kohli handled his quota of overs left some perplexed.
Kohli and the Indian team appeared to miss the calming presence of MS Dhoni, whose understanding of game situations has been helpful in crunch moments.
While the PCA stadium pitch was flat belter, India were still expected to defend a 350-plus total – but Turner's blazing knock, aided by the Indian team being struck by a bout of butter-fingers, helpeed Australia turn things around for a series-levelling win.
Can India Gauge Conditions?
In Ranchi, the team bowled first, and in Mohali, Kohli opted to bat – both decisions taken keeping dew in consideration. But the opposite of what was expected happened on both days; the ground remained dry as India attempted a chase of 314 at Ranchi, but the presence of dew helped Australia's 359-run chase at Mohali with the bowlers struggling to grip the ball.
The Ferozeshah Kotla wicket is usually low and slow, and the last two ODIs played in Delhi haven’t been high-scoring. In 2016, India fell short by six runs in a 243-run chase against New Zealand, while in 2014, the hosts beat the West Indies by 48 runs after scoring 263.
The T20 games in Delhi, though, have usually been full of runs.
The Form Book
The hosts would have heaved a sigh of relief with Shikhar Dhawan striking form at Mohali, silencing critics and ending a prolonged lean patch with a career-best 143.
The series-decider brings Dhawan, as indeed captain Kohli, to their home ground, but it remains to be seen if the Kotla track will assist stroke-play.
The evidence of history suggests wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should get enough assistance to put behind a below-par Mohali outing.
Usman Khawaja has been Australia's anchor this series, his composed hands at the top of the order instrumental in the visitors' turnaround from 0-2 down.
Buckled down by their worst-ever year in ODIs in 2018, the Aussies, all of a sudden, appear to have rediscovered their lost mojo.
Finch hit 93 in the third ODI, Peter Handscomb stroked a silken maiden ODI ton at Mohali, and Turner, of course, announced his international arrival with a 43-ball 84*.
India’s Final Pre-WC Bow
The winner-takes-all contest is also the Indian team's last international outing before the ICC World Cup 2019, making it, in a way, the final chance for players to leave an impression on selectors' minds.
Vijay Shankar appears to have grabbed his opportunity with reasonable returns through the series, but Rishabh Pant did no do his credentials much good as he struggled behind the stumps at Mohali, missing two straight-forward stumpings.
As a batsman, though, the 21-year-old did a decent job, making 36 off 24 balls as India looked to up the ante in the death overs.
Wednesday's game will be the last of the 'auditions', and Pant, Shankar and KL Rahul are likely to feature. Ravindra Jadeja, too, could get a look-in given his possible effectiveness on the sluggish Kotla wicket.
(With inputs from PTI)
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