Australia look to defy odds again
Thursday, November 5
Start time 1430 (0900GMT)
Big PictureAustralia have no business being 2-2 in this series. Seven first-choice men out, followed by two of their replacements (Moises Henriques being the latest). Foreign conditions. Back-to-back matches, spread across the length and breadth of India, suggesting more a sightseeing tour than one of the cricketing variety. Bowlers struggling at the death. Big hitters absent. Horror of horrors, Andrew Symonds is being discussed again by the fans. Conventional wisdom suggests that cannot be a good sign for the Australian team. Look at the scoreline, though - Two wins each. Who told Australia they could compete once their players started going down one by one after the first ODI?
Two-all doesn't mean this becomes a fresh three-match series, as MS Dhoni would suggest. Australia have simply lost too many players, which has made India the favourites though the Mohali loss puts the pressure back on the hosts. They will know losing the series in home conditions against an under-strength Australia will be an embarrassment; a 4-3 result won't be much better received. All of which gives Australia added incentive to win on Thursday and take a step closer to the grand heist.
India have had their share of injury troubles, with Zaheer Khan out for the series and Gautam Gambhir missing the fourth ODI. But the selectors' retaining the existing XV for the final three games suggests Gambhir's injury is not serious, nor is Virender Sehwag's. India need a win in Hyderabad to start their march towards 5-2, anything less than which should disappoint them. By the look of things right now, there are no excuses in sight either.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia - WLLWW
India - LWWLW
Watch out for...Virender Sehwag: Two fours off first two balls in Vadodara, three in the first over in Nagpur, and a first-ball boundary in Mohali. Despite a sedate 11 off 25 in Delhi, Sehwag's strike-rate for the series is 109.3, but he has faced only 86 balls in four matches. He needs to face 86 balls in one innings - and preferably utilise the third Powerplay.
Ricky Ponting has been exemplary through the series both as captain and in scoring 197 runs at 49.25. What's missing so far is the definitive Ponting knock, one during which he lets go of all restraint and wins the match on his own. The law of averages suggests it could be just around the corner.
Team newsGambhir has been cleared to play and is likely to replace Virat Kohli, and it would be a surprise if India split Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar at the top.
India(probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt./wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
It's an easy selection for Australia - with 13 fit men, they have only to decide which two to keep out. Clint McKay has arrived in India, but he and Jon Holland are likely to sit out.
Australia (probable): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt.), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Adam Voges, 7 Graham Manou (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Nathan Hauritz, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Pitch and conditions
Everyone who played the Champions League matches in Hyderabad loved the pitch: true and flat. And being in the southern part of India, Hyderabad should be relatively dew-free. The toss shouldn't put any team at a major disadvantage.
Stats and trivia
- Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, a relatively new addition to Hyderabad, hasn't been kind to teams who call themselves hosts. Deccan Chargers have gone through a season each of IPL and Champions League without registering a win. India have lost both the ODIs they have played here: to South Africa in 2005-06 and to Australia in 2007-08. Hyderabad, who call this their home ground, have lost six out of seven List A games they have played here, and won three and lost four first-class games.
- Yuvraj Singh has scored two centuries in those two lost matches: 103 off 122 balls against South Africa, and 121 off 115 balls against Australia.
- MS Dhoni and Michael Hussey have been the most consistent batsmen in the series. Dhoni has scored 255 runs at 85 and is the only centurion in the series on either side. Hussey has managed 247 at 82.33, his lowest score being 40, in Mohali.
Quotes"It's disappointing to see these guys go down, because you know how much they want to play and be a part of the series. So it's more disappointing for them more so than anything. I'm sure everyone who's returned back home would much rather be here with the series as it is at the moment, but we've got what we've got.''
Ricky Ponting knows he can't do much about the fitness issues.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo