India vs West Indies: Chance for India to extend series lead

India and West Indies meet in the third ODI at Pune on Saturday, with the home side keen to extend its lead in the series and set the house in order before the tour of Australia.

West Indies' Devendra Bishoo in action during a practice session ahead of the third ODI at Pune.   -  Prashant Nakwe

India skipper Virat Kohli exuded confidence in his players ahead of the ODI series against the West Indies saying 'bowlers are bowling well'. He also heaped praises on the batters. While the top-order batsmen have not given the captain any room for complaints so far, the pacers have been far from impressive.

While the side had rested Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the first couple of matches giving a chance to Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Khaleel Ahmed. But the trio failed to leave a mark — Shami conceded 140 runs and picked up three wickets while Umesh gave away 142 runs, scalping a single wicket. Khaleel leaked 64 runs for one wicket, in the only game he played.

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These numbers seem to have forced the national selectors to recall Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar, dropping Shami.

When the third ODI gets underway at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Saturday, India will have its hopes pinned on the two comeback men, on a surface that usually helps fast bowlers. The seasoned pacers would love to ensure that the side gets back to rhythm and the focus will be on the death overs and getting the house in order before the tour to Australia next month.

While Windies sweated it out at the nets on Friday afternoon, the Indian players took a break and stayed back at the hotel.

The Indian top-order has proved its mettle but the middle-order has looked fragile and with just 16 games left before the World Cup in England, consistency will be the key for the middle and the lower-middle order batsmen.

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Kohli — who surpassed Sachin Tendulkar to become the fastest to 10,000 runs — is the top performer for his side, hammering back-to-back tons and amassing 297 runs in total.

However, there are concerns over the form of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. An acclaimed finisher, Dhoni has struggled in the series and could only manage 20 runs in two games.

The teams will be wary of the dew factor, which is quite common during day-night fixtures, and it would be interesting to see how spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal manage to grip the wet ball.

While India will be hoping to fix the weak links, for Windies it is a chance to level the series and the body language of the team indicate that the tie in Visakhapatnam the other evening, has boosted the team’s confidence.

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West Indies' batting rests on Shai Hope and the young Shimron Hetmyer. The southpaw, after hammering a ton in the series opener in Guwahati, scored 94 in the previous game to prove his mettle and if the Hetmyer-Hope combination fires in Pune, the visiting side could well gain the upper-hand.

The Windies will be hoping for its seasoned campaigner, Marlon Samuels, to come good too. Samuels, who has so far scored only 13 runs, knows the Pune wicket well — thanks to his IPL stint — and that, the team hopes, will help him end the run drought.

The bowling also poses some concerns for Windies. Spearheaded by Kemar Roach, the side has been unable to come up with a proper strategy against India’s top-order. Even spinners Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse have looked clueless too.

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