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The long Indian tour of Australia is about to end before India gets off for New Zealand and Australia hosts Sri Lanka in a two-match test series. Riding on a trademark Kohli hundred and Dhoni's ultra-cool approach, India managed to draw level in the 3-match ODI series on Tuesday. India and Australia will take on each other for the one final time on this tour at the iconic venue of Melbourne Cricket Ground, on 18th January. Although both teams have done pretty well in bowling with the new ball, they both have concerns as far as bowling at the death is concerned. The honors in T20 were shared whereas India came ahead by a long way in the test series. India will aim to finish the tour on a high with a win in the match as well as the series and with Australia doing extremely well as compared to what they did in white-clothing, Friday is certainly not going to be a walk in the park for any of the two sides.
Despite the change in color of the clothing and the ball, Aaron Finch's struggles against the Indian bowlers continue to thrive. The Australian captain had a horrible time in the test series and haven't looked at his best in recent times. In both the games, his early failures have put a tremendous amount of pressure on Australia's middle-order - something which has been dealt with well so far, but isn't going to happen every time.
Coming into the side on the back of a terrific domestic season, Alex Carey has looked in both the outings so far. However, similar to what Dhawan has been like for India, Carey, too, hasn't been able to convert it into a big one. There's been plenty of discussion among the fans regarding Marsh's place in the longest format of the game, but his place in the limited-overs side is nothing but assured. He smacked a terrific hundred in the second ODI which allowed the Kangaroos to put up a respectable total on the board.
Arguably the best player of spin bowling in the whole Australian lineup, Peter Handscomb, failed to do much damage, but was brilliant in the first ODI and is certainly a vital part of Australia's plan in the limited-overs Cricket.
Australia relies heavily on their all-rounder department with Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell both being pivotal to their plans and the duo hasn't disappointed thus far. Glenn Maxwell has been brilliant in both departments and played a brilliant counter-attacking innings in the second ODI to take Aussie total close to 300. We might see Mitchell Marsh coming in for Peter Siddle in the next match which will not only add to their bowling lineup but will also deepen their batting strength.
In both the games, Australians have done well with the new ball. Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff were splendid in the opening game and did pretty well in the second ODI too. Barring Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle, who both looked off-color, the Australian bowling did pretty well on a surface that didn't really have much for the bowlers. Siddle hasn't been effective and the likely addition of Mitchell Marsh will variation to their bowling attack. Melbourne's surface is going to be a better one for the batsmen, and bowlers will need to step up their game forward.
Alex Carey, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Billy Stanlake, Peter Siddle, Adam Zampa.
Going into the second ODI, there were plenty of questions over Indian lineup - the balance, the form of Bhuvneshwar, Dhoni's finishing abilities, and the number four conundrum. While the question about the number four still remains, Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar both delivered when it mattered the most. Ambati Rayudu hasn't been in the best of the form in the two ODIs gone so far and with World Cup not really far away, the management will avoid tinkering with the batting combination and therefore, he, in all likelihood, should retain his place for the third ODI as well.
Bowling first after losing the toss, Indian bowlers were disciplined at accurate early in the innings. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was at his usual best and conceded just nine runs off his first five overs. Mohammad Shami wasn't as economical but picked up the important wicket of Alex Carey. However, it was the middle-overs where Indians lacked control over the innings. Brought into the side in place of Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammad Siraj was a huge disappointment and conceded 78 runs in his three ten overs without any success and we expect Khaleel Ahmed to walk back into the side to replace Mohammad Siraj.
Spinners have played a vital role in all victories India have tasted in the recent past with Kuldeep Yadav playing the lead role. However, the Kuldeep threat was well negotiated by Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell, which is something India will have to be wary of. However, the Indians will be delighted with the performance of Ravindra Jadeja who not only returned with the brilliant figures of 10-0-49-1 but was also lightning in the field and affected an important run-out of Usman Khawaja which helped Indians to step the flow of runs in the middle overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was although expensive at death, he was easily the pick of the bowlers as he returned with the figures of 10-0-45-4.
Unlike the last match where Indians were three down for almost nothing on the board, the approach was rather circumspect for at least the first couple of overs. Shikhar Dhawan looked extremely good before he perished while trying to clear the infield on a rather harmless Behrendorff delivery. With the platform well-set, it was just the time Kohli enjoys walking in and he looked at his fluent until he was dismissed. First, he was involved in a 54-run partnership with Rohit Sharma and later on he and MS Dhoni added 82 runs after Ambati Rayudu was dismissed. He was dismissed for a personal score of 104 but had clearly left India in an ideal position to pull off the chase.
India had been struggling to close games in recent times with almost little to no contribution from the lower middle order. There were doubts over MS Dhoni's form and Dinesh Karthik's inclusion, but the way they approached the total was an assuring sight for any Indian fan. Although he scored less than half the runs as former Indian skipper, Dinesh Karthik's 25 run cameo was as important. His quick cameo allowed MS Dhoni to continue playing risk-free cricket as the duo sealed the deal with the perfect unbeaten partnership of 47 coming in just 34 deliveries.
India were slow to adapt in the T20s as they came from behind to level the series and the same appears to be the case in the ODIs as well. Indians have been an extremely dangerous side in limited-overs cricket and their terrific winning percentage over the last year validates that. They appear to have found the rhythm and will not be easy to beat for the home side in the upcoming contest.
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, V Kohli, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, V Shankar, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, YS Chahal.
With surface likely to remain same throughout the course of the game and DLS method likely to come into the picture, both the sides are likely to bowl after winning the toss.
Unlike the surface in the first couple of games, the surface at Melbourne is expected to be a better place to bat for the batsmen. It is likely to stay the same for the course of fifty overs and the team batting first will be targeting to score at least 300. There are 50% chances of precipitation on Friday and the overcast conditions might help bowlers early on in the innings. However, any assitance for the quick bowlers from the surface is highly unlikely and it will be a batting paradise once the cloud cover goes off.
Before India flies to New Zealand, they have a final hurdle to cross to conclude a successful tour. Should they manage to win the upcoming match, it will be a rare double series win which not many visiting teams have done in Australia. The hosts, on the other hand, have looked better in the colored outfit as compared to the test matches. They were brilliant in the opening match, but power and depth of Indian batting lineup proved to be too much to handle for their rather inexperienced bowling attack. With Shikhar Dhawan looking good and all other batsmen in fine form, the Indian bowling has a frightening aura to it. The fifth bowler leaked plenty of runs for India in the last match, but their batsmen did well to cover it up. With bowling delivering well and batsmen in fine form, the men in blue are better-placed to win the upcoming encounter.