India hope to stay afloat in the series
Their high-flying balloon of Twenty20 success pricked by Australia's back-to-back wins, India go into the fourth cricket one-dayer faced with the herculean task of winning four matches in a row to clinch the series.
The task at hands seems all the more difficult with the Indians failing to get big partnerships and the bowlers lacking sting and direction against the formidable Australian who have piled on over 900 runs in three matches so far.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's and his men, trailing 2-0 in the series, have no option but to pull up their socks and try to stop the Australian juggernaut to keep themselves afloat in the series.
While a victory at the Sector 16 Stadium, hosting an ODI after 14 years, would make the Aussies unbeatable in the series, which has been reduced to six-match series.
India's batting has been the biggest let down in the series with the lone exception of Yuvraj Singh. The opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar has yielded 1, 11 and 10 runs in the series so far.
A brittle middle order sandwiched between a rickety top and an a docile tail with hardly any sting in it, the hosts are yet to last full 50 overs in the series and that pretty much sums up their plight.
Tendulkar has been a pale shadow of himself and his best show so far, the 71-ball 43 at Hyderabad, surely had the effort but not the effervescence that has been his hallmark.
The burden of captaincy off his shoulders, Dravid was expected to flourish but he floundered still and the ugly poking at a mediocre Brett Lee delivery in Hyderabad would surely haunt the technician par excellence.
Not that the youngsters did much different. For both Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, it's their bankability, and not belligerence, that is in question, while Rohit Sharma did not show the same alacrity that saw him grab the first opportunity that came his way in Twenty20 World Cup and make his presence felt.
That leaves India with only Yuvraj and Dhoni to do the bail-out act and such crippling over-dependence is bound to boomerang. Whenever the duo decided to fightback, they did not get support from their teammates and once they departed, it was just a matter of time before India embraced defeat.
Bowlers did a relatively better job but the never looked menacing. Early breakthroughs went in vain as they could not go for the kill and allowed the Australian middle order to absorb the pressure before counter-attacking and eventually ripping apart the Indian attack towards the end.
While India have cut a sorry figure in the series, the Australians played with the traditional ruthlessness that has enabled them to maintain their hegemony in world cricket.
Australia hardly put a foot wrong in the series. Ricky Ponting's side has arrived with a rather uncomplicated masterplan -- to bat first, pile on an imposing score and then unleash a menacing pace attack on the hosts with a dubious record while chasing.
Adam Gilchrist has been more or less silenced but Matthew Hayden has taken it on himself to provide the early charge.
In case of a top order collapse, Australia relied on a bellicose Andrew Symonds and the incredibly talented Michael Clarke and the duo has not let the team down.
Australia's sky-high confidence can be fathomed from the fact that Brad Haddins, despite his back-to-back half centuries, including a Man of the Match effort, in the first two matches had to pave way for Ricky Ponting, while an out-of-form Brad Hodges -- whose scores of 0, 3,3 resemble Kolkata's STD code -- maintained his place in the side.
Their bowling has been impressive too, with Brett Lee giving little leeway, while Mitchell Johnson's pace had the Indians in all sort of troubles.
Stuart Clark operated rather silently with precision, while Brad Hogg has proved quite a handful with successive three-wicket hauls. Now with Nathan Bracken back in the side, the visitors have even more options.
So, while it has been plenty of problems for the Indians, Australia would be rather happy with their problem of plenty and the visitors would have a clear psychological edge over the hosts when they lock horns tomorrow.
: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Kaarthick, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Rudra Pratap Singh, S Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh.
: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds.