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Clash of the Titans on a super Sunday

Sunday, June 9, 2019 • Common Sport News Comments

It began exactly three months ago, in Ranchi. Coming into that game, Australia had won only eight of their last 33 ODIs going back to the start of 2017 and were still coming to terms with their two best batsmen serving a year-long ban. Their captain Aaron Finch was struggling to buy a run, and India's fast bowlers, away and at home, had been ruthlessly zoning in on his frailties against the incoming ball.

India had just beaten Australia 2-1 in an ODI series in their own backyard and was leading the five-match return series 2-0.

Everything turned around in Ranchi, where Finch made 93 in a 32-run win for Australia. Since that innings, Finch has averaged 71.44. Since that match, Australia has won ten ODIs on the bounce, the last two at this World Cup with a full-strength squad including David Warner and Steven Smith.

This Australian resurgence has challenged what had been a pretty set narrative in the months preceding the World Cup, that England and India would be the teams to beat, with the rest trailing some way behind. No, Australia has snarled. We're here too. A comfortable win in their opening fixture Vs Afghanistan at Bristol and then the way they clinched the victory from the Windies, In an absolute rollercoaster of a game, Would have boosted their morale to a huge extent. India on the other hand, Is a big giant in itself as a unit.

India occupies a different level of ODI range to the two teams Australia have beaten at this tournament so far. Their batsmen aren't going to get out slogging when the required rate is under control, as West Indies' did. Their bowlers, you suspect, wouldn't have let them turn 79 for 5 to 288 all out. India will give Australia plenty to worry about - if not fear - themselves. Jasprit Bumrah is bowling like a beast, the wrist spinners are grabbing every possible wicket with utmost efficiency, Rohit Sharma has begun his tournament with a match-winning hundred, and Virat Kohli is, Obviously a player like none other in the current era.

This World Cup has already seen some fine contests. We've seen Pakistan exceed expectations against England, Bangladesh tactically uproots South Africa, West Indies rattle Australia, and New Zealand wobble in the chase against Bangladesh. But we haven't yet seen a clash of the big contenders. Sunday will be just that.

Australia has played the same XI in both their games so far, and though some of their players haven't hit top form just yet, there isn't a compelling reason to make any changes just yet.

Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Adam Zampa

Given Australia's troubles against the short ball against West Indies, India could look to bring Mohammed Shami - who can hurry batsmen with the bouncer, as he showed during a six-wicket haul in the Perth Test in December - into their attack. Who could he come in for, though? Bhuvneshwar Kumar would be the obvious option, but without him, India's tail will begin at No. 8 unless they also replace one of the wrist spinners with Ravindra Jadeja. Playing all three quicks could also be an option if the conditions point in that direction.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Pitch & Conditions 
The Oval has been among the most high-scoring grounds in England since the 2015 World Cup, and a flat pitch can be expected once again. The weather is expected to be dry with a bit of wind about.

Trivia 
Australia has an 8-3 record against India in the World Cup, and have only lost once in seven meetings - the 2011 quarter-final in Ahmedabad - since the 1992 edition.

India's only defeat in the previous edition of the world cup came in the semi-final at Sydney against Australia. Australia defended 328/7 and won by 95 runs. India had won all the group stage matches and the quarter-final prior to that match, By dismissing all the opponent teams 

Australia (11 out of 11) and India (5 out of 5) are the only two teams to have taken 100% of their catches at the World Cup so far.

Apart from the middle overs, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have also been a valuable source of wickets in the early death overs (41-45). Chahal has 18 wickets at an average of 14.27 in this phase while conceding just 5.39 per over. Kuldeep has been almost as impressive: 16 wickets, an average of 18.12, and an economy rate of 6.49.

Marcus Stoinis needs 18 runs to get to 1000 in ODIs.

-Kumaran Kumanan

Images Courtesy : BCCI ICCI Cricinfo

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