Australia vs India, 3rd ODI Preview: Visitors eye survival

What will worry India is Shikhar Dhawan's failure, which has denied the team good starts, and the absence of an in-form big-hitter.

The third ODI will be India's last chance to salvage any hopes of turning the tables in this ongoing five-match series   -  AP

India arrive in Melbourne with little time for reflection or recovery. Four days in, the bilateral series already needs saving, after two defeats caused by similar failings. India could defend neither the 309 in Perth nor the 308 in Brisbane, leading the captain to effectively declare that he had little faith his bowlers would improve. We need 330 or 340, was the gist of his remarks, because we can’t defend 300; that or we try and bat second.

That dials up the heat on India’s batsmen ahead of the third one-day international, at the MCG here on Sunday. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have played their parts well, while Ajinkya Rahane too showed at the Gabba that he was in good touch. Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja have not played enough to be judged.

What will worry India, instead, is Shikhar Dhawan’s failure, which has denied the team good starts, and the absence of an in-form big-hitter. M.S. Dhoni arrived in the 45th over in Perth and the 43rd in Brisbane — where India attempted to score quick runs towards the end and lost wickets — but could not make an impact on either occasion.

“The position we are in, in the series right now, we’ll have to score more runs and definitely we’ll go hard,” Dhoni said on Friday. “But at the same time you have to realise how hard you want to go. Today we started our slog earlier but lost a few wickets. It’s always good to have a set batsman in the last few overs, but it won’t always happen. Hopefully in the next game we’ll come out and play a bit more freely because we know we have to score runs. Or we win the toss and field first and chase down whatever total they score.”

Dhoni will wonder how he can use his bowlers differently. He ruled out fielding Rishi Dhawan, stating instead that the three seamer-two spinner combination was India’s best bet. R. Ashwin and Jadeja may expect a little more help from this pitch than the previous two, although John Hastings felt it would produce another run-fest.

“The white-ball wickets have been fantastic at the MCG this year, throughout the Big Bash,” the Australia fast bowler said here on Saturday. “They’ve actually had a bit more pace in them than usual; so I think it’ll be another high-scoring affair. I can’t see that changing.”

Hastings was key for Australia at the Gabba, returning figures of one for 46 from his eight overs. He has been retained in the squad for the third ODI, while Josh Hazlewood has been given a break for the remainder of Australia’s home season. Mitchell Marsh, who was rested for the second ODI, will return, likely replacing Kane Richardson or Scott Boland.

Australia will strain every sinew to finish the series off here; it knows no other way. “If we bowl first, we try to contain them to around 300,” Hastings said. “If we bat first, we try to push on and score 330 or 330 plus.”

Squads:

Australia: Steve Smith (c), Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, George Bailey, John Hastings, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Matthew Wade (wk), Joel Paris, Scott Boland, Shaun Marsh, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Marsh.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Gurkeerat Mann, Rishi Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Brainder Sran.