Weakened Australia face must-win game
January 29, 2016
Start time 1938 local (0838 GMT)
On their Republic Day, India went all retro to dampen the Australia Day spirit a little. There was Ashish Nehra, there was Yuvraj Singh, and there was control, which must seem like a substance of vintage for Indian fans when it comes to limited-overs cricket.
India might be on to something because it wasn't all vintage: youngster Jasprit Bumrah began the turnaround with the ball, and then the spinners capitalised. With the bat, India did not even need Yuvraj, for Virat Kohli set the tempo and also took India to the finish. Some might say they have already found the core of their World T20 side, but such optimism will be ill-founded should Yuvraj and Hardik Pandya not be in the batting form expected of the specialist big hitters.
As the game shortened, Australia found that their superior physicality in the field and running between the wickets counted for a little less, and India emerged a much better opponent than they were in the ODIs. The bowling experiment with Shaun Tait might well continue, but they will feel the need to be more efficient with the bat. The biggest issue will be the panic-stricken shots they chose to play as opposed to picking the singles and twos when the spinners bowled well in the middle overs. A batting line-up that is keeping Usman Khawaja out is expected to do better.
Australia: LLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
After the defeat in Adelaide, Aaron Finch claimed responsibility for the wickets of David Warner and Steve Smith because he said he had put pressure on them by slowing down. However, when he got out, Finch was 44 off 33, which was not a bad strike rate in that chase. Batsmen who back themselves push their strike rates up in no time in T20 cricket, but Finch tried shots that were too adventurous and may feel under pressure keeping in mind he is the captain. Plus there is Khawaja gunning for a place at the top of the order.
R Ashwin's first over, bowled with the new ball, went for 17 runs, but he made a superb comeback with the next three, taking the big wickets of Finch and Watson. This will come as a relief for India's No. 1 spinner who found himself out of the XI for three of the five ODIs. With confidence under his belt, Ashwin could be a threat for Australia.
If Glenn Maxwell returns, it might be just the fillip Australia need in their middle order. With Warner and Smith leaving the squad to prepare for the tour of New Zealand, Travis Head and Chris Lynn may yet have a lifeline. It could also mean Watson returns to the top of the order and Shaun Marsh gets a game. On the bowling side, the Tait experiment is unlikely to end after just the one game.
Australia (possible) 1 Aaron Finch (capt.), 2 Shane Watson, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Chris Lynn, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Travis Head , 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Nathan Lyon/ Cameron Boyce, 10 Kane Richardson/ John Hastings, 11 Shaun Tait.
India are likely to persist with the XI that gave them a comprehensive win in Adelaide.
India (possible) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 6 Yuvraj Singh, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Pitch and conditions
By now we should stop asking the question around pitch and conditions in Australia. Expect runs at MCG too, but watch out for the odd shower.
Stats and trivia
- Virat Kohli now has 10 scores of fifty or more in Twenty20 internationals, the most for an Indian. Overall only four other batsmen have reached fifty more often: Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and David Warner.
- Australia have managed to win only one Twenty20 international after conceding 160 runs when bowing first. The success came way back in the semi-final of the 2010 World T20.
- Tait's 4-0-45-0 were his worst figures in T20 international cricket.
"During those middle overs, I think a lot of us get carried away with trying to play a lot of big shots and not actually trying to take advantage of the big fields in Australia."
David Warner knows where Australia lost the match on Tuesday
"I think it's important to have players like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina who can bowl and bat. If you have too many one-dimensional players, especially in your top order, then it becomes very difficult if somebody has a bad day"
MS Dhoni is relieved his batsmen can give him some overs now
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo