Despite being massive disadvantaged due to their unending injury problems, Australia have still managed to compete and keep the series alive. At 2-2 going into Hyderabad it is anyone’s series and India will need to pull their socks up and not take the opposition lightly, like they did in Mohali resulting in a disaster. Australia, in the meantime, will also be without all-rounder Moises Henriques, who himself was brought in as cover for James Hopes, and so must have lost faith in process of replacements. Apart from the XI they played at Mohali, they only have two left in the reserves now – Clint McKay and Jon Holland, both of whom are likely to sit out at Hyderabad. Still, the victory in the last match would have boosted their confidence no end.
The Aussie batters have struck form with Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting getting among the runs at the top of the order. In the middle-order, Michael Hussey and Cameron White have been consistency-personified. If anything, they need better support from the lower order. With Henriques out, Adam Voges will be back, and he along with Graham Manou and Mitchell Johnson will be expected to make better contributions.
Bowling wise, Australia discovered a star in the making at Mohali in left-arm quickie Doug Bollinger. He was exceptional with his accuracy and movement and was justly rewarded. Shane Watson and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz also impressed, but the absence of the wicket-taking Peter Siddle will be sorely felt. He was undoubtedly Australia’s best bowler of the series so far. Ben Hilfenhaus, who is likely to take his place, will have a tough task on hand. But he is a competitive cricketer so expect him to come up with the goods. That leaves the Aussies with their biggest worry named Mitchell Johnson.
When Brett Lee was ruled out, Johnson automatically became the pace spearhead of the team. Unfortunately, he has done nothing to justify the position. If anything, he has been off target and been dealt with rather harshly but the Indian batters, Sehwag in particular. But with the lack of arsenal, Australia have no option other than to keep playing him. How Johnson fares in the remainder on the series will have a definitive impact on the final result. The death overs bowling is another area where the Aussie bowlers will have to improve their performance drastically to keep their team’s chances afloat.
The hosts, themselves, have quite a few tribulations of their own. Virender Sehwag has been giving the team rollicking starts, but none of his knocks have gone beyond the description of a cameo. India would be hoping for a big one from him. Ditto with Sachin Tendulkar and the back from injury Gautam Gambhir. If the top three fire, India’s middle-order automatically becomes doubly dangerous as Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni can directly go for the kill instead of rebuilding the innings first. Also, it is about time Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja come up with something substantial.
Before the start of this series, the Indian bowlers were under fire from all quarters. The much-maligned brigade has redeemed itself though, at least for the movement. Ishant Sharma’s rediscovery of himself has been the biggest plus, whereas Praveen Kumar is learning the art of bowling even when there is no swing. Ashish Nehra’s comeback is only getting better and better with every passing game. About Harbhajan Singh, India will have to wait and watch, because even though he is struggling with the ball, he is coming up with good knocks with the willow. It’s no rocket science though that India need Harbhajan the bowler back.
Keeping in mind, Australia’s depleted army of men, India are hugely advantaged. However, they can only utilize the golden opportunity if perform to potential and not get lethargic, like we witnessed at Mohali.
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