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Dominant India look to seal series

Wisden India logo Wisden India 24-09-2017 Himanish Bhattacharjee

It is not often that you find an Australian side facing a do-or-die situation in only the third game of a five-match One-Day International series. But the Team India they are up against is made of such individuals who believe in hunting in packs and dominating the opposition. Steven Smith and Co. have had their chances, but not once have the hosts loosened their grip in any of the encounters so far. The result - a 2-0 lead going into the third ODI at Holkar Stadium on Sunday (September 24).

The sun was shining brightly over Indore on the eve of the match after the groundsmen were forced to keep the field under covers for two days due to scattered rainfall in the region. The pitch looked fresh, and the locals predicted a belter of a track and a potentially high-scoring contest.

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Australia had their first full outdoor practice session after a week, with rain limiting their training to the indoor facilities throughout their stay in Kolkata. They made full use of it, going through the drills for three and a half hours, and giving their batsmen ample time to iron out the kinks at the nets. S Sriram, their spin-bowling consultant, used the services of three net bowlers - all wrist-spinners - to get the batsmen ready for another trial by spin on Sunday. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have tormented the Australians in both the matches so far, and though both Smith and David Warner denied having too many problems against them, the numbers suggest otherwise.

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Kuldeep and Chahal have bagged 10 wickets between themselves so far. The pattern has been evident - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah apply the pressure with swing early on, and the spinners feed off it to pick wickets in the middle overs. Hardik Pandya, apart from impressing with the bat, has been the man to fill the gaps perfectly with his medium pace.

"I think it's a good sign that they (Australia) are not able to read them," Ajinkya Rahane told reporters on Saturday afternoon. "They are both quality spinners and have done well in the domestic circuit. They are getting better day by day. It is important in ODIs that you keep taking wickets in the middle overs. These guys are doing that, so it's great to have them. They are not taking things for granted, not taking things lightly, so that's a very good thing."

A possible return of Aaron Finch, who was suffering from calf problems, can provide some balm to Australia's headache. That would signal an exit for Hilton Cartwright, the young opener who made his debut in Chennai and has only registered binary scores since the warm-up match against a Board President's XI side.

India's batting has had its share of problems, but the back-everyone-come-what-may mantra in the camp has actually bailed them out in both matches so far. In Chennai, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Marcus Stoinis had the hosts on the mat with the scoreboard reading 87 for 5 before a middle-order resurrection, led by Pandya and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, saw them rack up 281 for 7. In Kolkata, it was the top-order contribution from Rahane and Virat Kohli that set them up nicely before a middle-order meltdown saw them fold for 252.

Manish Pandey has struggled for runs, and though there is KL Rahul, Pandey's Karnataka teammate, waiting in the sidelines to fill up the No. 4 spot when needed, it is unlikely that India would tinker with the winning combination immediately.

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"Both Manish and Kedar are quality players and the team management is backing them," revealed Rahane. "They have just played two games here. It is important to give them the confidence. It happens to all professional cricketers, you fail sometimes, and you get runs sometimes. As far as I know, the Team management is completely supporting them."

Australia's bowling hasn't been as big a concern as their batting, but with their move of bringing in Ashton Agar and Kane Richardson for Adam Zampa and James Faulkner in the second ODI not working out too well, there could be a rejig depending on how they read the conditions.

The weather, which had the groundsmen worried till Friday afternoon, has cleared in Indore and a sunny day is expected to welcome the sides on Sunday.

Teams (from):

India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.

Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Steven Smith (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade(wk), Peter Handscomb, James Faulkner, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson.

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