India vs Australia: One eye on weather, India gears up for do-or-die battle

At the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, intermittent rain denied India a shot at levelling the three-T20I series.

Virat Kohli could bat at No. 3 in the last T20I in light of KL Rahul’s recent struggles.   -  getty images

Staring at an imminent defeat after seven successive series wins on the trot, India will be hoping for yet another solid bowling performance against a brittle Australian top-order in the third and final T20 International on Sunday.

At the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, intermittent rain denied India a shot at levelling the three-T20I series.

India's target — revised thrice due to the showers — was 46 from five overs but with nearly 90 minutes of play lost to inclement weather, the match was eventually called off.

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The Virat Kohli-led side has been unbeaten in T20Is since July 2017, when it last lost to West Indies in a one-off game in the Caribbean. It has won 20 out of 27 matches since then in different conditions and against varying oppositions.

In doing so, India has bagged nine consecutive T20I series, including a drawn two-match contest against Australia at home (October 2017) — the Nidahas Trophy win in the tri-series in Sri Lanka (also including Bangladesh) and beating England away 2-1 in the summer gone past, are the highlights of this unbeaten run. Back in 2016, India had won the T20I series Down Under with an unprecedented 3-0 margin.

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India's fielding was sloppy in Melbourne — with wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah dropping a catch each — and is one area which will be a priority going into the series-decider, considering the standard set by the current clique of players.

The bowling department would've instilled confidence in skipper Kohli. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2-20) and Khaleel Ahmed (2-39) took four wickets between them while Kuldeep Yadav (1-23) and Krunal Pandya (1-26) too made an impact.

India went in with an unchanged side; Kohli backing all-rounder Pandya over leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.  And with the SCG known to be a spinner's wicket, the think-tank might be tempted to retain the same team.

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Chahal, however, could get a game at the expense of Ahmed, who despite being a touch expensive in the first game, has justified his selection thus far.

In Melbourne, while the team was waiting for the play to resume, Kohli was seen with his pads on even as openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma warmed up.

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It hinted at a possible promotion to the No. 3 spot for Kohli, in light of KL Rahul’s recent struggles. It is improbable that the latter will be left out in Sydney, but Kohli boosting the top-order in the series’ finale could be India’s best bet.

Meanwhile, weather is set to relent on Sunday and unless conditions are drier than anticipated, Australian skipper Aaron Finch has no reason to change his playing eleven.

Teams:

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Washington Sundar.

Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.