The first one-day international between Australia and India is upon us. Where better to host the much-anticipated match than the SCG, where Australia will look to set the tone not just for this ODI series, but the entire summer.
The return of spectators on Friday afternoon will give the home side a crucial boost as Australia have lost three of their last four ODI matches to the touring side. However, series openers have been favourable for the Aussies, emerging victorious the past two of three times.
More, Aaron Finch’s men will look to build on their September ODI series win against England on their home turf.
Last time they met
The sides played back in January in a three-game ODI series that India took out 2-1. After Australia won the first match in historic fashion, without the fall of a wicket, India won the next couple comfortably – the first by 36 runs and the second with seven wickets to spare.
Despite this, David Warner and Aaron Finch’s sublime opening partnership in the series opener – 258 unbeaten runs – will give the Aussies faith in their batting line-up. Unsurprisingly, the player of that tour was Virat Kohli after his masterful batting display, notching half-centuries in the penultimate and final game. This time around, the Australian side will hope to curb his influence and strike rate, which was around 100 for the entirety of the last series.
Though the high scoring of their previous meeting will instil some confidence in Australia and India’s top orders, the lack of recent international cricket means Indian Premier League form could be more telling.
The IPL has been one of the few opportunities for these cricketers to get some reps in, albeit in the 20-over format. KL Rahul made the most of his campaign, finishing with the highest run total. Shikhar Dhawan also impressed with the willow, posting two centuries to go along with four 50s. For the Australians, David Warner was the only real standout. However, Marcus Stoinis, who was left out of the ODI squad earlier in the year, also had a reasonable IPL batting season, putting together three innings over 50.
Australia and India’s best IPL batting performers
How Australia stop King Kohli
Kohli is coming off some fine IPL form too, averaging 42.36 across 15 games. In the absence of Rohit Sharma – who was the player of the match in the series-clinching victory in January – Kohli is India’s main operator.
Yet Australia will feel as though they have just the giant-slayer in their squad to bother the Indian superstar: Adam Zampa. Zampa has dismissed Kohli a combined seven times in white-ball cricket. If he can build pressure in the middle overs of the game, the tourists’ skipper might just try something rash, not dissimilar to the way the leggy dismissed him caught and bowled in the first ODI earlier in the year.
Much like it will be for India attempting to thwart Steve Smith’s success, stopping Kohli is often more about damage control than anything. While an early dismissal is the ultimate goal, Australia will have to keep the fielding tight if they want to limit Kohli’s mastery.
Assuming that Australia pick three quicks in Sydney – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – and the lone spinner in Zampa, all-rounders will be pivotal. Marcus Stoinis is expected to retain his place following his impressive IPL campaign with the ball – grabbing 13 wickets, three of those in the qualifying final.
He’ll have to improve his bowling economy though – it was a 9.53 in the IPL – along with fellow all-rounder Glenn Maxwell in order to finish off the overs with a minimum of cheap runs.
When it comes to the crux of the Indian bowling attack, it’s all about Jasprit Bumrah, who is ranked as the ICC no.2 ODI bowler in the world. India may decide to go with a couple of full-time spinners today in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, but the chief focus of Australia’s batting group will be on surviving Bumrah.
Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
The Australian batsmen will feel right at home at the SCG with around 20,000 cheering fans behind them for the first time in months. Expect at least two of the top order of Warner, Finch, Labuschagne and Smith to put runs on the board if they can see out Jasprit Bumrah’s opening spell.
Smith’s confidence ahead of the series doesn’t bode well for the Indian side either. He alluded to his apathy towards the short-ball approach teams have employed to rattle his cage recently, but also said he’s feeling good with the bat after a lean IPL by his standards.
Furthermore, the Indians will dearly miss Rohit as he recovers from a hamstring injury. This could present a vulnerability to expose for the three Australian quicks – all ranked in the top ten ICC ODI bowlers in the world. Whether India decide to couple Shikhar Dhawan with KL Rahul or Mayank Agarwal, or some other variation, the pairing will be comparatively untested.
In jarring contrast with Australia’s opening batsmen, one of the most seasoned pairing in 50-over cricket, the Indians will need to find their footing quickly – particularly if they have to chase a big total.
Altogether, Australia should take the first ODI off the back of their world-class bowling attack and their experienced top four batsmen, emboldened by the home crowd. Based on past experience, however, the rest of the series could get dicey.
Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Daniel Sams, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
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