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Cricket news - Improving Australia have it all to do in Ranchi
Things are looking up for Australia, even if the series scoreline reads otherwise. Aaron Finch broke his batting rut, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb looked impressive, and Marcus Stoinis essayed the finisher's role to near perfection in the second ODI in Nagpur - taking the game deep and coming very close to making his first score in excess of 50 in a winning cause. The signs are there that the series could be kept alive beyond Friday's must-win fixture.But for that, Australia still have one aspect to sharpen their knives for.
In the second game that they very nearly pocketed, the margins were agonisingly low. Particularly so, in the middle overs. Australia played out 18 more dot balls than India did, between overs 10 and 40 - 91 to India's 73 - and ended up getting 39 runs fewer than the hosts for the loss of two more wickets in the same period - 126/5 to India's 165/3.
In the overall numbers, the only area where Australia fell behind India in run-making was the number of singles they took - 91 to India's 112, the majority of which came through the crucial middle phase when scoring boundaries on an up-and-down Nagpur surface wasn't easy.
The fast outfield - thanks to the slope at the JSCA International Stadium Complex should help in taking control of the game in through the middle-overs, but there still needs to be better emphasis on strike rotation.
Even with Shikhar Dhawan going through a bit of a patchy form since his twin fifties in New Zealand in January, India's real area of improvement is something very specific with the ball.
Vijay Shankar proved his worth in a clutch situation, but the finer details of his bowling role remains unattended to. In the two games so far, Vijay has bowled just 4.3 overs and in turn, stretched India's fifth bowling option in part-timer Kedar Jadhav. Jadhav has been successful in the series so far, but bowling in Hyderabad and Nagpur will not be the same as doing so in Southampton, London or Nottingham. Specially for a spinner who has only once in his 33 ODI innings with the ball, bowled his full quota of overs.
If the decision of putting Shankar on the plane to England has already been taken, then the rest of the series - starting from the third ODI - needs to be used to determine which phase of the game he's best suited to bowl about 4 to 5 overs at least to share the burden with Jadhav and ensure India aren't left to take tough calls at the death in close fixtures. This will be crucial considering the lengthy group stage format at the World Cup and the recent back injury troubles for India's first-choice fast bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya.
When: India vs Australia, 3rd ODI, March 8, 2019, 13:30 Local Time
Where: JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi
What to expect: Weather-wise, the north of India can be a little less taxing on the cricketers at this time of the year, which Bhuvneshwar Kumar reckoned was the best to play cricket in. A sunny day is up ahead with gentle maximum temperatures of 26, as opposed to the ones in the early 30s in the previous two venues.
The teams can anticipate assistance for spin - based on past record. India's last two fixtures at this venue have come against Australia - a win in a rain-truncated T20I in October 2017 and a Pujara-Smith-Maxwell dominated drawn Test in March same year.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar spent the maximum time bowling during an optional nets session on Thursday (March 7) and pretty much confirmed his inclusion in the press conference that followed. Mohammed Shami is likely to make way. Rishabh Pant too was out to train on the eve of the game, combining his keeping drills with batting that would eventually end with a round of six-hitting that he aced.
Having watched Vijay Shankar from the closest possible quarter in the second ODI, Virat Kohli could be tempted to try the Tamil Nadu all-rounder at No.4 in place of Ambati Rayudu in order to accommodate Pant as one of the finishers.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Ambati Rayudu/Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav
The visitors did little wrong in Nagpur. Shaun Marsh's return may not have been in line with Australia's expectation, but he's been a form player in the 50-overs format and also allows the visitors to play Marcus Stoinis in the middle-order, from where he can help the side finish better.
Australia will continue to closely monitor Nathan Lyon's white-ball fortunes as he bids to make it to England for the World Cup.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile/Jhye Richardson, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa
Did You Know?
-> If India win the third ODI, it would give them their 50th ODI win against Australia, the third team to do so after West Indies and England.
-> A win in Ranchi would give Virat Kohli his 50th win as captain in ODIs. Only Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting have reached the milestone in fewer ODIs.
-> In his last 15 ODI innings, Shikhar Dhawan has scored 376 runs at an average of 26.85 and has gone past 50 only twice.
What they said:
"I'm not worried about who's getting a chance and who's not. More importantly, it's about getting rest. Shami got rest in New Zealand, I got rest in this series. You want to be consistent, [and] for that you want to be fit. You want to give your 100 percent every match. That's the reason why I took rest, Shami took rest in New Zealand, Bumrah too rest in Australia. We are not worried about who's going to play." - Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
"I am really enjoying being back playing the shorter formats, and being back in coloured clothing for Australia. For me it is just about enjoying the challenge and trying to get better at playing shorter formats. I am one for always learning about cricket. I want to get better each and every day that I come out to bowl" - Nathan Lyon.
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