India in battle for survival
Match factsMonday, September 28, 2009
Start time 14.30, 12.30 GMT
There are all sorts of scenarios and permutations about which teams could make it through to the semi-finals in Group A but the simplest is this: if Australia beat India, it will be Pakistan and Australia who progress. The group will be done and dusted with two games to go. Things become more complex if India win. They will be in prime position due to their remaining game against a weakened West Indies and Australia's fixture against an unbeaten Pakistan. However, should India and Australia either both win or both lose their last group game, net run-rate will be required to determine the semi-finalists.
It means that there's a lot riding on this day-night encounter and neither team enters the match in peak form. India have the advantage of familiarity with the conditions at Centurion, where they lost to Pakistan on Saturday. Australia are coming off a win but it was a scratchy and in parts unconvincing victory against an under-strength West Indies in the different conditions at the Wanderers. It's hard to predict a winner, though the bookmakers favour Australia.
Australia will be most concerned about breaking India's opening partnership early; Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar have troubled Ricky Ponting's men in the past and Australia's fast bowlers lacked penetration against West Indies. The presence or absence of the stiff and sore Michael Clarke looms as another potential key. Unlike India, Australia aren't automatically out if they lose but it will be a hard road back. The teams meet for seven one-dayers in India in October and November but none will matter as much as this game.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia - WLWWW
India - LWLWW
Clarke's stiff back ruled him out of the game against West Indies and Australia will be hoping he can get up for what should be a much tougher contest with India. Should Clarke prove his fitness, Australia must decide who to leave out and it's not an easy decision. Callum Ferguson, Cameron White and James Hopes are the likely contenders to drop out of the side and despite an excellent start to his international career, Ferguson could be the unlucky one as he does not offer a bowling option.
Australia (possible): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Callum Ferguson/Michael Clarke, 6 Cameron White, 7 James Hopes, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Peter Siddle.
MS Dhoni said he felt three bowlers short at times, such was the ease with which runs were scored in the middle of Pakistan's innings, and India are certain to play five specialist bowlers on Monday. Harbhajan Singh did not bowl well against Pakistan but he is a bogey player for Australia and regularly lifts against them. The other bowling options in India's squad are Praveen Kumar and the legspinner Amit Mishra, who is a strong contender. Praveen could edge in ahead of RP Singh, who took 1 for 59 in nine overs against Pakistan.
India (possible): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan/Amit Mishra, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 RP Singh/Praveen Kumar, 10, Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Watch out for...
He might have retired from Twenty20 internationals but Ricky Ponting remains Australia's most important player in ODI cricket. He was magnificent in compiling 79 against West Indies in difficult conditions and a big Ponting score can be the difference between mediocrity and dominance from Australia. He has made plenty of runs against India, but Harbhajan and Ishant Sharma have caused him problems. As always with Ponting, the key is piercing his defences within his first couple of overs at the crease.
Ishant Sharma was one of the better bowlers against Pakistan with figures of 2 for 39, but he has struggled for consistency. But he has enjoyed success against Australia in the past and has nine ODI wickets at 19.33 against them. Importantly for India, he has a bit of a hold on Ponting, having dismissed him six times in international cricket. The ball angling in to the top of off stump troubles Ponting early and Ishant will be a key man for India for that reason alone. He has also dismissed Clarke six times, so Ishant may be hoping Australia's vice-captain passes his fitness test.
Pitch and conditions
India have the advantage of having just played in Centurion, where the conditions are different to the Wanderers. The surface is much slower and provides more assistance to the spinners. Runs are available if the bowlers fail to adjust and Australia will need to sharpen their efforts after struggling to run through West Indies on a cracking and helpful Johannesburg pitch. There is also a strong chance of showers in the evening, so the teams should bear that in mind at the toss.
Stats and trivia
- Australia and India seem to play each other so often that it's hard to believe they haven't met in an ODI for 18 months, when India wrapped up the CB Series at the Gabba. It's so long ago that Adam Gilchrist was still playing
- India have won four of eight ODIs they've played in Centurion; Australia have won four of seven. Both teams have lost their past two one-dayers there
- Not since 2003 have India won a one-day international in South Africa; in the meantime they've lost six
- The last time these teams met at Centurion, India were walloped by nine wickets, during the 2003 World Cup
"We all know we need to play better than we did today against India"
Ricky Ponting after Australia's scrappy win over West Indies
"From now on it's like a knockout tournament for us. If we don't play well we can pack up our bags and go home."
MS Dhoni after India's loss to Pakistan
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo