Australia hope to bounce back on grassy pitch

Big Picture

In their last 10 completed ODIs on the road, Australia have won one game, against Ireland in September 2016. Never in their ODI history have Australia had a 10% win rate over a similar sample size. Where has it gone so wrong? With Tests preferred over bilateral ODI series, key personnel have consistently been rotated, and while it may keep the players fresh, it has had a regressing effect on the set-up of the team.

Australia’s troubles against spin were exacerbated in a 3-0 drubbing against Sri Lanka in the Tests in July 2016. In their subsequent Test series in India and Bangladesh, there were discernible signs of improvement, but they were by Australia’s most technically efficient batsmen. For the ODIs, Australia have sacrificed technique for run-scoring ability, and that trade-off – whether apt or not – proved counter-productive in the first game in Chennai. Wristpinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav exerted absolute control over Australia’s batsmen apart from Glenn Maxwell.

With their recent form, India were a confident team coming into this series. That morale may have climbed another level after they recovered from 11 for 3 to post 281, and subsequently defended a revised target of 163 with little trouble. In Hardik Pandya, India have found a fifth bowler who isn’t a weak link and a No. 7 who has the maturity and arrogance to weather tough periods and then take on long, straight boundaries even with a trap set just for that.

Form guide

India WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia LLLLW

In the spotlight

Every ODI team, apart from Bangladesh, has a wristspinner in, or close to, their best XI. Playing wristspinners is advantageous not only because batsmen struggle to differentiate between their stock ball and their variations, but also due to the extra bounce that they generate, making the sweep a risky get-out-of-jail shot. That was evident when Chahal and Kuldeep ran through Australia’s middle order in Chennai. Ahead of the series, captain Steven Smith said the surfaces wouldn’t spin as much, which presents batsmen an arguably tougher challenge to preserve their wickets.

Australia’s genuine fast bowlers, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile, troubled India’s top order with pace and lateral movement in Chennai. In the last ODI in Kolkata, England’s seamers also enjoyed a rare quick surface. Coulter-Nile also has the experience of playing at Eden Gardens, having taken eight wickets in four IPL games at the venue for Kolkata Knight Riders.

Team news

India’s only question lies in their middle order. Will they stick with Manish Pandey, who was dismissed for a two-ball duck in Chennai?

India (probable): 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Manish Pandey/KL Rahul, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Australia’s batting issues have caused them plenty of distress already. Debutant Hilton Cartwright, Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade failed miserably in Chennai. An alternative option is Peter Handscomb, who has shown he could be Australia’s long-term No. 4 in Tests, and has the technique and ability to score quickly. Stoinis struggled to pick wristpin, but bowled tidily, which could help him retain his spot.

Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Peter Handscomb, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Adam Zampa

Pitch and conditions

Heavy rains in the lead-up to the ODI have hampered the preparation of the pitch, which has remained primarily under covers. There is a forecast for thunderstorms on Thursday afternoon.

On the eve of the match, Smith noted that the pitch had a bit of grass on it, “probably more than I’ve seen in India for a while”. This suggests it could play true to its recent reputation of aiding seam more than spin. Remember Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 49 all out? The short boundaries, though, could level out the balance between bat and ball.

Stats and trivia

  • Rohit Sharma has scored 794 runs at an average of 113.42 and a strike rate of 99.87 across formats (first-class, List A and T20) in his last nine innings at Eden Gardens.

  • In ODIs and T20Is, Hardik Pandya hits a six every 6.4 balls against spin, the best frequency for any batsman. Of his 19 sixes, 14 have been struck straight, in the arc between long-on and long-off

  • Seamers took 61 wickets at a strike rate of 16.4 in the previous IPL season in Kolkata, while spinners picked up 24 wickets at a strike rate of 23.

  • The average score in the last five ODIs at Eden Gardens is 311.

Quotes

“I don’t think I’m in a bad place with my captaincy. Obviously results haven’t been the way we would have liked and that’s something we are trying to rectify.”
Steven Smith on his leadership

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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