The climax for the India-Australia five-match One Day International series lies at the final frontier. It cannot get bigger than this for the last game of a sporting series as India and Australia go into the fifth and final ODI tied 2-2.
Moment rests with the visitors who have won two back to back games and restored parity after having been down 0-2.
India will have to quickly put behind a massive bowling failure, sloppy fielding and tactical mistakes to tame a resurgent Australia in the series-deciding encounter at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in Delhi on Wednesday.
The cricketing world has applauded India’s current bowling attack as one of its most potent but the failure to defend a mammoth total in Mohali came as a reality check for it.
Even the ever-reliable Jasprit Bumrah was taken to cleaners by Ashton Turner with ease, though the way captain Virat Kohli handled his quota of overs did leave many perplexed.
Kohli and the Indian team definitely missed the calming presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose understanding of game situations has been helpful in pressure situations.
Without doubt, the PCA stadium pitch was flat, offering nothing to the bowlers but a world-class attack was expected to defend a 350-plus total. The blazing knock by Turner, who was helped by the Indian team’s butter-fingered fielders enabled Australia turn it around.
Dhoni will again be missed in the decider and Rishabh Pant will have several questions to answer in every department of the game. This may be his last opportunity to put up a strong case for his selection for the ICC World Cup in England and Wales.
At the Feroze Shah Kotla ground, the wicket is usually low and slow but the team would not like to be surprised in the key game which makes the toss crucial.
Not many runs have been scored in the last two ODI matches played here with India losing to New Zealand by six runs in October 2016 and winning against West Indies by 48 runs in October 2014.
The Twenty20 games have been full of runs, though.
The hosts can heave a sigh of relief with Shikhar Dhawan striking form. The Delhi left-hander managed to silence critics who had been after him due to a prolonged lean patch.
At his home ground, he would look to get some more runs but it remains to be seen if the batters get a surface which assists stroke-play.
Going by history, the surface should be ideal for wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as the slow bowlers have done well in the previous games.
Usman Khawaja has been the man for Australia this series. His stellar show at the top has been instrumental in the visitors’ turnaround in the series. Getting him early would be crucial to India’s chances.
With skipper Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb and new sensation Turner contributing in the team’s good run, this Australian side is definitely on the right track to regain its status as one of the most formidable sides.
The winner-take-all contest will also be the Indian team’s last in the 50-over format before the World Cup, making ti the players’ final chance to make an impression on the selectors minds.
Vijay Shankar has done a reasonably fine job with the bat in the limited chances he has got but Rishabh Pant did not do any good to his wicket-keeping reputation by missing chances in Mohali.
As a batsman, though, his utility is beyond doubt.
The top and middle-order is largely settled and tomorrow’s game will be one last chance for Pant, Shankar, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja to do something special and prove their worth.
Jadeja may figure in the playing XI tomorrow, considering that his left-arm spin on the Kotla wicket would be effective.
Star Sports will broadcast the match in five languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada – on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi and Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports Tamil, Star Sports Telugu, and Star Sports Kannada.
The match will also be simulcast on national broadcaster Doordarshan’s terrestrial network,
The match will also be streamed live on Star’s OTT platform Hotstar.
The match at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in Delhi will start at 1:30 pm.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Carey, Nathan Lyon and Jason Behrendorff.