Bengaluru: While Karnataka celebrated Rajyotsava Day, the anniversary of its formation, cricket fans in the state were hoping for an advance Diwali gift by way of India clinching the one-day series against Australia by winning the seventh and concluding match in Bengaluru on Saturday.
The seven-match series between the top two ODI teams is evenly poised at 2-2, with two of the games abandoned due to rains.
Indications are that Saturday’s game could be another high-scoring affair with India, enjoying all the advantages of playing at home and a clutch of talented young batsmen, starting out as favourites while the visitors will be without their bowling spearhead Mitchell Johnson who flew home on Thursday to prepare for the forthcoming Ashes series.
The four other games saw totals in excess of 300 that accurately reflected the dominance of bat over ball with the bowlers, courtesy the new fielding restrictions and flat pitches, being taken to the cleaners.
The fact that bowlers have taken only 52 wickets in nine completed innings reflects the pasting they have received with a total of 2,889 runs being scored.
In the event, the batsmen of both teams have revelled in the helpful conditions and there is little reason to believe that it would be anything different here on the morrow on the traditionally batsman-friendly pitch at the Mangalam Chinnaswamy Stadium here.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, despite the big series-levelling win at Nagpur, lamented the plight of the bowlers who have less cover in the deep due to the five-fielders-in-the-ring rule that came into effect this season. So much so that the biggest casualty among the bowlers has been Indian medium pacer Ishant Sharma who was dropped after the third game as by then he had conceded 189 runs in just 24 overs while picking up just two wickets.
In contrast, the other seamer, Vinay Kumar who might well get to play on his home turf in Bengaluru, has been the pick of the Indian bowlers with seven wickets, though he was omitted for the Nagpur outing as Dhoni opted for a third spinner in Amit Mishra.
The other weak link has been the middle-order, where neither Suresh Raina nor Yuvraj Singh has fired, scoring just 72 and seven runs, respectively, from five visits to the crease.
Their failures though have not drastically impacted India’s batting with the top-order batsmen Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in top form while Dhoni himself has marked his presence with a century.
Kohli, in particular, has been in sublime touch with scores of 61, 100 not out, 68 and 115 not out in his four outings while Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have virtually cemented their roles as openers.
The Aussie batting is not far behind with Dhoni’s counterpart George Bailey — whose roots can be traced to Sri Lanka — revelling with the bat in his debut series as captain. Bailey has notched scores of 85, 92 not out, 43, 98 and 156 while the likes of openers Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes and all-rounder Shane Watson have chipped in at various times.
In the bowling department, the Aussies too have suffered, though Johnson, with seven wickets in the bag, has always threatened with his pace in excess of 150kmph and bounce. However, his absence on Saturday could be to India’s advantage.
It is to be expected that both teams would give the pitch a closer look than usual, for the bowling combination could well hold the key to the outcome.
India (From): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni(w/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Jaydev Unadkat.
Australia (From): Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, George Bailey(c), Glenn Maxwell, Adam Voges, Brad Haddin(w), James Faulkner, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Moises Henriques, Callum Ferguson,
Live telecast on TenCricket from 12pm UAE on Saturday