After three entertaining run-feast, India and Australia head to MS Dhoni's home town Ranchi to play the fourth one-dayer of the seven-match ODI series on Wednesday. Against the odds, visitors snatched victory in the previous one-dayer thanks to poor bowling by the Indians, especially under-fire Ishant Sharma who gave 30 runs in the 48th over to turn the tide in Australia's favour.
BCCI retained the same squad for the last four games; however, Dhoni, who has played the first three matches with an unchanged eleven, will be inclined to rejig the bowling unit that has failed to live up to expectations.
Ishant and Vinay Kumar have both been expensive, which could lead to Dhoni asking one of them to make way for Mohammad Shami or Jaydev Unadkat. Being a left-armer, Unadkat may get the nod in front of Shami to add variety to the attack. With the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) Stadium in Ranchi expected to help the spinners, legspinner Amit Mishra might also get a look-in ahead of one of the pacers. That will give India a combination of two pacers (Unadkat and Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and three spinners, with Jadeja being the third spinner in the eleven beside Mishra and R Ashwin.
As far as batting is concerned, the new ODI rules of just four boundary riders and two new balls are helping the willow-wielders enjoy on flat Indian tracks. India once again put up 300-plus in Mohali, though it was largely due to the heroics of skipper Dhoni. India had slumped to 76 for 4 and then were 154 for 6 at one stage when Dhoni's 139* off 121 balls helped them cross 300.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma had an off day in Mohali and were out cheaply, which means they will be due in this pressure match. Suresh Raina once again failed to prove that he is the right man to replace Yuvraj Singh at No. 4, getting out after being set. Comeback man Yuvraj, too, has been silent after his fiery 77 not out in the one-off T20 in Rajkot, and the left-hander would be keen to get back among runs. Virat Kohli once again proved that he is the most dependable batsmen in the team as he notched up yet another fifty. He will be expected to carry his form to Ranchi as well.
On the other hand, Australians have so far shown that they are up for the Indian challenge, and on Wednesday will be keen to extend their lead. Aaron Finch and Phillip Hughes' success at the top has given the Australian middle order confidence to go for the big shots. George Bailey has led from the front with his 220 runs so far and provided momentum needed in the death overs. Their top five have been in fine form, and in Mohali it was James Faulkner who did the damage in the dying overs to turn the match on its head with his 64* off just 29 balls. That included 30 runs in the infamous 48th over bowled by Ishant Sharma.
Australia have also looked a much better bowling unit, especially due to the pace and bounce they have been able to extract. Except the first ODI in Jaipur, their fast bowlers have bowled with purpose. Mitchell Johnson came to the fore in Mohali, grabbing 4 for 46, to emerge as the leader of the attack. Faulkner has supported Watson well while spinner Xavier Doherty has bowled with a lot of heart in unfavourable conditions. Shane Watson hasn't been in his elements with the ball yet, but his all-round qualities remain unquestionable.
A win here for Australia will see them race to a 3-1 lead, and it would become tougher for India to bounce back by winning the remaining three ODIs. So it's a sort of must-win game for the hosts to stay close to the heels of the Australians.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar/Amit Mishra, 11 Ishant Sharma/Jaydev Unadkat.
Australia: 1 Phil Hughes, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 George Bailey, 5 Adam Voges, 6 Glen Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty