Australia’s lead-up to their second clash against India in Nagpur will be more structured than the approach to the first, when their pre-match plans were affected by the late arrival of the New South Wales players participating in the Champions League final and their game-time strategy hit by the loss of Brett Lee and James Hopes during India’s chase. This time their bad news has come in advance – Lee and Hopes are out with elbow and hamstring problems, and there are doubts over Mitchell Johnson, who hurt his ankle, as well, although coach Tim Nielsen was hopeful about his participation – yet they will be challenged to repeat the win they recorded at Vadodara.
India, on the other hand, are likely to be boosted by the return of Yuvraj Singh, who had broken his finger during the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa. Among the several problems India faced in Vadodara – a scattergun bowling attack, a mis-firing top order, and a less-than-electric fielding unit – was inexperience in the middle and lower order. Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja are promising emerging talents but fielding both players in the same XI doesn’t inspire much confidence. Yuvraj’s inclusion will solve that problem.
Wedneday’s game will be the first one-day international in Nagpur since the new stadium was built on the city’s outskirts in Jamtha. It had hosted the deciding Test of the India-Australia series in 2008 but that match was blighted by poor crowds largely due to the inaccessibility of the venue. One-day cricket, however, is a far bigger draw than the five-day version and only the commute, especially back to the city after the match ends at night, could prevent a packed house at the one of India’s best stadiums.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia – WWWWW
India – LWLWL
Watch out for …
Virender Sehwag: He hadn’t played international cricket since the tour of New Zealand earlier this year and his first two balls in Vadodara reminded everyone of what India had missed. Sehwag cracked Lee through point and midwicket for fours and added another boundary, against Peter Siddle, a ball later. However, he didn’t carry on and his brief innings – 13 off 11 balls – would have merely whetted his appetite.
Yuvraj Singh: On his day, Yuvraj is among the most destructive one-day batsmen, and his days tend to happen more often at home than abroad. Yuvraj averages 43 at a strike-rate of nearly 95 while playing in India, compared to an average and strike-rate of 39 and 84 overseas. In his last one-day series in India, he devastated England, hammering 325 runs in five innings at a strike-rate of nearly 130.
The batting Powerplay: Both teams struggled after taking it in Vadodara. Australia managed only 33 runs off theirs, taken between 43 and 47, and lost three wickets. India were worse. They opted for it in the 35th over, lost Gautam Gambhir first ball, and scored 32 for 3 during the fielding restrictions.
Nathan Hauritz: Watch out for Hauritz? Really? His seemingly gentle offbreaks are always under-rated but he bowled a valuable spell in the first ODI. He kept the run-rate down during the Dhoni-Gambhir partnership and had figures of 7-1-15-1 before getting hit by Harbhajan Singh towards the end of the game. He was not the most heralded spinner in the series but he was the best one on show in Vadodara.
India have a few changes to ponder over. If Yuvraj returns, it will be at the expense of either Kohli or Jadeja. However, Yuvraj’s return adding strength to the middle order could also result in India fielding the extra specialist spinner in Amit Mishra if the pitch is conducive for slow bowling. In that case, both Kohli and Jadeja could miss out. The other player likely to miss out could be Praveen Kumar, who leaked 77 runs off ten overs in the first game. Despite his success with the bat, his spot could go to Munaf Patel.
India: (probable) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Praveen Kumar/Munaf Patel, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Assuming Johnson will be passed fit, Australia have to replace Lee and Hopes. The contenders are Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jon Holland and Shaun Marsh. Either Bollinger or Ben Hilfenhaus is a certainty for the third fast bowler’s spot, and considering Australia got by with Hopes bowling only two overs in the first game, they could strengthen their batting and give his spot to Shaun Marsh.
Australia: (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Adam Voges, 7 Cameron White, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Nathan Hauritz 10 Doug Bollinger/Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Peter Siddle.
Pitch and conditions
Deciding what to after winning the toss in India is usually a no-brainer. Most teams prefer to bat, and take advantage of a slowing pitch as the game progresses. However, the decision in Nagpur may not be so clear cut. The pitch is expected to be flat and excellent for run-making but dew in the evenings could make captains think twice before batting first, especially if there are a few slow bowlers in the line-up. Dhoni said that one of the matches during the recent Challenger Trophy was severely affected by dew and he said the organisers were trying to minimize its effect on the game by spraying the ground with chemicals.
“It looks like a good wicket. And if there is dew, they will spray the outfield, may be use the super-sopper as well during the drinks break,” Nielsen said. “But yes, it will be a bit more difficult with dew around especially for spin bowlers who will find it hard to grip the ball. It will have an impact. For the team batting second, the difficulty in chasing will be reduced a bit with dew around so the team batting first needs to make a competitive total.”
Stats and trivia
* Ricky Ponting is the highest run-scorer in ODIs in 2009, having scored 1005 runs in 24 matches with two centuries and seven fifties. Michael Hussey is third with 926 at an average of 42.
* MS Dhoni has the best average for anyone who’s played atleast 10 matches in 2009. Dhoni’s scored 768 runs in 21 matches at an average of nearly 70.
* Shane Watson has the distinction of having scored the most hundreds and ducks in 2009. He’s scored three centuries to date, and also been dismissed for duck four times.
* Mitchell Johnson is the leading wicket-taker in 2009, with 39 wickets in 26 matches at an average of nearly 30 apiece.
“Brett is certainly out of tomorrow’s game but Mitchell Johnson’s woken up a lot better today morning than we thought he would be when we drafted the media release yesterday evening. We will see how he pulls up through the training session today and all the indications are that he might well be available tomorrow morning. At this stage, Mitchell is not completely out.”
Tim Nielsen is keeping his fingers crossed on Johnson.
“We have not been great with our death bowling. If you see the last game, the first few overs – 42nd over onwards – it was good and in the 50th we gave away one run. In between there was a span of four overs when we gave away 50-52 runs.”
MS Dhoni knows India’s bowling at the end of the innings is a problem.