Australia Look To Extend Winning Streak; India Hunt Crucial Answers

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Australia look to extend winning streak; India hunt crucial answers. The fragility of India's middle-order is well recorded, and accentuated lately due to the lack of runs (or intent) from some of the regulars

Australia Look To Extend Winning Streak; India Hunt Crucial AnswersThe fragility of India's middle-order is well recorded, and accentuated lately due to the lack of runs (or intent) from some of the regulars

Australia have often spoken about the hurt and humiliation following their now infamous World Cup exit in 2017 at the hands of India, and Harmanpreet Kaur, and the shake-up it sparked in the national set-up. And in the five years since, they've built a squad (and bench strength) so enviable that you'd be forced to think hard before putting your money on the opposition. They're sitting on a world record 24-match unbeaten streak in the format, dating back to the 2018 series in India, and have dropped only one game out of 27 – to Ashes rivals England in 2017 – between the two Championship cycles. Needless to assert, the hosts start as clear favourites in the multi-format series against India – featuring also a Pink-ball Test – beginning with the first of the three ODIs on Tuesday (September 21) in Queensland.

For Australia, who additionally have an Ashes and a T20 WC title defence coming up, this is the start of a rather hectic 18-month period that's going to put their bench strength to test thoroughly. For starters, they are currently without the pace and spin spearheads, Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen, for the India series. A depleted bowling line-up does give India some hope of maybe being the one to halt the Australian juggernaut unexpectedly once again five years on, if not register their maiden ODI series win in Australia. But in no way does that diminish the king-sized challenge that awaits the 2017 runners-up in the lead-up to the next, when they have question marks hanging around their own combination.

The fragility of India's middle-order is well recorded, and accentuated lately due to the lack of runs (or intent) from some of the regulars. On top of which, head coach Ramesh Powar did not mince his words when he threw an open challenge to those on the fringes to put their hand up as he admitted India are still exploring options to built a competent pace attack that would compliment their spearhead Jhulan Goswami – six months out from the World Cup. It hasn't been an ideal preparation year for India now with two back to back series defeats in the format following a 364-day period of inactivity.

That said, both India captain Mithali Raj and Powar have indicated that they are satisfied with how the team management – selectors included – have tried to address those concerns in the short, two-week camp they managed to squeeze in, at the NCA, before flying out to Brisbane. A glimpse of that was on offer in the only warm-up the visitors got after a two-week hard quarantine.

Left-handed bat Yastika Bhatia has impressed with an enterprising run-a-ball 41 at No. 4 before getting out, to potentially ease some of India's middle-order worries. Pooja Vasktrakar has asserted her (underutilised) potential with the bat, as well as temperament, with a patient 57, holding an end up after a top-order collapse – adding strength to their allrounders-cum-finishers' desk. Uncapped in ODIs, Richa Ghosh has got a look-in ahead of regular ‘keeper in the format, Taniya Bhatia. If this game was any indication, at least the former two are walking into the XI – especially with India receiving the Harmanpreet blow that leaves the middle-order even more vulnerable.

Raj did mention after the match that game time for the youngsters – ahead of some of the frontline choices – was for the management to better gauge their options, and could well be that only. But the visitors would be pleased to have a problem of plenty – especially if you add Shikha Pandey. a back-among-runs Jemimah Rodrigues, and a versatile spin department to the mix again – rather than question marks as they get closer to the marquee event. That said, with only a handful of games left in the lead-up, India have the tough task of quickly piecing together their most ideal combination whilst competing with the toughest there is, with series points on the line every game.

When:Tuesday, September 21 at 5:35am IST | 10:05am local

Where:Harrup Park, Mackay

What to expect:Very little is known about Mackay's Great Barrier Reef Arena, even though the venue has hosted a few of Brisbane Heat's home games in WBBL. But if the practice match is any indication, the pitch has plenty of runs in it. The weather is promising and not likely to throw up any surprises.

Team News

Australia:While the top-six pick themselves, Australia's concerns lie in the relative inexperience of their bowling department. That's good news for left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux, who gets an extended run to re-establish her credentials. Among the young pacers, pace and bounce of Darcie Brown and Stella Campbell respectively that troubled the Indians in the warm-up, could result in them making the XI more regularly, with new ball duties resting with Ellyse Perry.

Squad: Alyssa Healy (wk), Rachael Haynes, Meg Lanning (C), Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Nicola Carey, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham, Sophie Molineux, Tayla Vlaeminck, Darcie Brown, Tahlia McGrath, Georgia Redmayne, Maitlan Brown, Molly Strano, Hannah Darlington, Stella Campbell

India:Harmanpreet is definitely out of the series opener – not because of the quad injury that forced her to withdraw midway from The Hundred but because of a fresh jolt to the thumb a few days ago. Even if for just one game, this allows India an extra vacancy in the middle order to test their bench strength and left-hander Yastika could be a front-runner there. The stars could have also aligned for a comeback for Rodrigues, who turned it around spectacularly in The Hundred after being dropped from the white-ball set-up on the England tour due to poor scores. This could also mean skipper Raj drops back to No. 4 despite indications from their only warm-up in Australia that India's most reliable bat could move back to her No. 3 slot that she gave up on to make up for the lack of experience in India's middle order. All-rounder Vastrakar has substantiated her batting credentials once again and looks all set for a comeback, giving India's pace attack more bite.

Squad:Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Mithali Raj (c), Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur [ruled out of ODI 1], Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Pooja Vastrakar, Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Sneh Rana, Punam Raut, Richa Ghosh (wk), Meghna Singh, Yastika Bhatia

What they said

“As a 17-year-old, I think we have to give her [Shafali Verma] a little breathing space. And Mithali, SS Das (batting coach) and myself we had conversations with her. She knows what is expected out of her. So we don't push a 17-year-old who is very expressive in her batting. We don't want to curtail her game, we give her freedom with some responsibility and SS Das plays a major role because he is here as a batting coach and he has spent a lot of time with Shafali. He is working on her game, on the mental aspects also and she has played the Hundred so she got some confidence levels also so it is important for us to let her express” – Ramesh Powar.

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