Amid calls for more "context" in international cricket, two of its stronger teams have shown there isn't too much wrong with an old-fashioned bilateral ODI series. The fourth match in Bengaluru may have been a dead rubber, but both teams still had plenty to play for. India couldn't quite pull off a record tenth successive win; Australia finally found a way to capitalise on a winning position, and ended an unedifying run of results away from home.
The fifth ODI in Nagpur, similarly, will have plenty of narrative if you care to look for it. There's the difference between 4-1 and 3-2, for one. Then come the selection quandaries. India experimented with their bowling attack in Bengaluru, and were perhaps below their best, as a result, with the new ball and at the death; do they go back to their first-choice quicks or give their reserves another go at finding their match-sharpness? Australia left out their most destructive middle-order innovator, and won; do they stick with their winning combination or reason that correlation doesn't equal causation?
The two captains, meanwhile, have scored runs at various points without quite hitting the sublime heights they are capable of. Will one, or even both of them, end the series with an innings of jaw-dropping class?
India: LWWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The VCA Stadium's boundaries are among the longest in India, a fact that will enthuse spinners from both sides, and perhaps encourage India to go with Kuldeep Yadav's flight and guile rather than Axar Patel's stump-to-stump darts.
Kane Richardson has been a revelation since replacing James Faulkner in Australia's attack, showing off a subtler array of slower balls than the left-armer and picking up seven wickets while conceding less than six an over in all three games. A strong finish to the series will ensure he remains in the selectors' thoughts even after Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood return to full fitness.
India rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, their two leading ODI quicks, in Bengaluru, and could give Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav another opportunity. KL Rahul has not featured in the series so far - he might get a chance as well.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 and 5 two out of KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav.
Australia left out Glenn Maxwell in Bengaluru, and, while it did not cost them unduly on that occasion, his presence could have prevented their slowdown after India broke their opening stand. They may have a difficult choice to make if they want to bring him back in place of Travis Head, who scored 29 off 38 but contributed usefully with his offspin.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Travis Head/Glenn Maxwell, 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Adam Zampa.
Pitch and conditions
The VCA Stadium in Jamtha has been a high-scoring venue in ODIs, with six out of seven first innings producing 290-plus scores. But the last ODI at this venue was in October 2013. Since then, the pitch here has tended to be a slow turner, as reflected by recent T20I trends: teams batting first scored 126, 122, 123 and 144 in the last four matches here, and yet only lost once.
The square, however, has been relaid since the last T20I here, between India and England in March, and the curator Pravin Hingnikar has promised a "sporting pitch" that would "bring back our lost glory".
Stats and trivia
- Rohit Sharma needs 92 runs to become the ninth Indian batsman to score 6000 ODI runs.
- Ajinkya Rahane has made fifties in his last three ODI innings. He went through a similar sequence during India's tour of West Indies earlier this year, when he scored 62, 103, 72 and 60 in successive innings.
- Aaron Finch has only played two matches in the series, but he leads the boundary charts with 30 (22 fours and eight sixes).
- Virat Kohli has scored 141 runs so far in this series at an average of 35.25. If he scores less than 109 while being dismissed, or less than 59 if not out, he will finish with an average of less than 50 for the first time in his last seven series.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo