Peculiar feelings of hopelessness and despair encircled Virat Kohli's men as Australia's explosive openers, David Warner and Aaron Finch unleashed carnage at night on Wankhede's featherbed. Every boundary scored plummeted India's hopes and the audience's cheers. From pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah's yorkers to Kuldeep Yadav's chicanery, nothing could thwart the rampaging visitors. Inevitably, the hosts suffered a reprehensible 10-wicket drubbing, the foundation of which was laid earlier by their mediocre batting performance. Nevertheless, Rajkot's series-defining clash presents India an opportunity to bounce back and reinstate their worth as a limited-overs powerhouse.
Since the traumatising World Cup elimination, India had advanced progressively in terms of fixing their middle-order concerns with youngsters shouldering responsibility. But Australia's vigorous bowling attack exposed the loopholes again and gave India a harsh reality check. Despite the century partnership between KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, India conceded momentum at halfway stage with wickets tumbling rather frequently. Virat Kohli, India's perennial sheet-anchor, sacrificing his batting position didn't help the cause either. Minimising the dot-ball percentage and taking calculated risks should be high on India's agenda moving forward. Presumably, Kohli's return at his designated number three slot could turn around the home side's fortunes.
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Rookie Shardul Thakur illustrated his all-round potential, extracting generous lateral movement with the new ball after showcasing his willow-wielding capacity for the umpteenth time. Chinaman Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja fared decently and also produced some chances, but luck eluded them. Bumrah, who's been slightly off colour since his international comeback, needs to deliver the goods alongside an experienced Mohammed Shami.
Sparkling with confidence, Australia ticked all the right boxes in Mumbai's lopsided joust. Veterans Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc painstakingly operated on the fourth stump channel, forbidding India easy runs. Left-arm tweaker Ashton Agar was particularly impressive too, darting shooters while occasionally tossing flighted deliveries.
The proverbial expression goes: A wounded lion is still fiercer than healthy sheep. Following an ego-bruising thrashing, can India retaliate and draw level or will Australia emerge victorious once more?
Match Details: India vs Australia, 17 January, 1:30 PM local
Venue: Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot
What to expect: The hard-rolled sporting track promises an enthralling contest. Pleasant weather conditions are forecast throughout the matchday. Chasing targets is highly recommended given the dew factor.
India: KL Rahul will don the wicket-keeping gloves as Rishabh Pant has been ruled out due to the concussion injury. Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, or Shivam Dubey are likely contenders to replace the stumper.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav/ Manish Pandey/Shivam Dubey, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.
Australia: The Kangaroos are expected to not tinker with the winning combination.
What they said:
"If they ask me to bat at No.3, of course I'll do it. Anything for my country, for sure. You have to be mentally strong, all the boys are mentally strong, that's why they've been playing international cricket and it's part of the journey, sometimes you've to switch numbers as well.''
Shikhar Dhawan explained. "See that is a captain's choice, KL is batting well, he did well in the last series and he played really well and he played well today. I feel it is the captain's choice where he wants to play and he has done amazing at No. 3, maybe I feel, he will think about it to go at number three again." he further added.