India look to avoid whitewash against Australia in 5th ODI at Sydney

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Sydney
  • Updated: Jan 23, 2016 00:54 IST
Ishant Sharma sits on the ground after he deflected the ball onto the stumps against Australia in Canberra. (AP Photo)

When you no longer know what’s good enough, you are always going to start on the back-foot. Since the World Cup semi-final last year,

India have come up short despite throwing everything at Australia. Now, India face a massive challenge of preventing the ignominy of a 5-0 whitewash in the one-day series.

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Erratic in their game, India have pressed the self-destruct button from positions of advantage. It will be difficult to shrug off the mental scars of four defeats in a row. And a fifth loss will not only lay bare the embarrassment that was dreaded since the first-ever bilateral series with Australia started, it also will see India slip below South Africa to third in the International Cricket Council’s rankings.

The fifth ODI is expected to be affected by rain and that will make it difficult for the teams to finalise their combinations and strategy since no one would know how many overs they are going to get. It poured heavily on Friday and weather reports changed from thundershowers on Saturday to cloud cover.

If the clouds open up, it could well be reduced to a Twenty20 game, the minimum needed to make up a game. The touring India women’s warm-up match against a Governor General’s XI on Friday at Drummoyne Oval, Sydney has already became a casualty.

If this match too meets the same fate, the bowlers would be most relieved. It’s been a nightmare of a series for them till now. And it’s not going to change at the Sydney Cricket Ground too.

Records show how India batsmen love to bat here. Which means Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be all charged up again. Given the venue is spin friendly, R Ashwin should be back in the reckoning if there’s possibility of a full game.

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But poor output of the lower order has hurt India most. In the first three games, they struggled to accelerate in the slog overs while in the fourth they crumbled under pressure in the chase. Maybe Ravindra Jadeja & Co can take a cue from the opposition.

While there was continuous analysis on how to go about the job under pressure, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell actually set the template at the Manuka Oval. Smith’s tactic was simple --- attack the bowler and get that boundary early to seize the upper-hand for the rest of the over.

In the 41st over, Smith smashed a six off the first ball. On the first of the 42nd over, he got a four. In the 43rd, he got a first-ball six and repeated the act in the 44th over.

In fact, Smith hit at least a boundary in each over he faced after playing out the last two balls of the over he came in. With Jadeja’s 37th over, Smith employed this strategy. And the best example of how impactful it was could be seen in the 43rd over by Ishant Sharma. Hit for a six off the first ball, Sharma ended up conceding 15 runs under the pressure.

While India struggled to touch a run rate of seven in the last 10 overs of the first three ODIs, Australia collected 111 in their last 10 at Canberra. If it stays true to the script so far, that period is likely to be decisive in Saturday’s game too.

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