Australia v India Third T20I
Sunday January 31, 7:15pm
After narrowly avoiding a whitewash in the ODI series India will be looking to claim a clean-sweep of their own when they face Australia in the third and final T20I at the SCG on Sunday.
A 27-run deficit at the MCG on Friday night consigned Australia to a second loss and series defeat at the hand of the Indians in what was almost a carbon copy of the opening fixture in Adelaide. Once again Australia sent India into bat only to concede a total in excess of 180, while in pursuit they again failed to combat the visitors’ spinners after a promising start to the chase with captain Aaron Finch top-scoring for the second consecutive match.
The hosts will have to do without Finch who suffered a hamstring injury in the process of being run out in Melbourne and while Shane Watson is expected to assume leadership duties, the in-form Usman Khawaja has been drafted into the squad and will likely take Finch’s place at the top of the order. One-day players Matthew Wade, John Hastings and Kane Richardson have also been released with the uncapped Cameron Bancroft taking over the gloves from Wade, while the omission of Hastings and Richardson should provide another opportunity for Andrew Tye who took an impressive 1/28 on debut at the MCG amidst the onslaught from India’s batsmen.
India’s series-clinching win in Melbourne was again set up by their powerful top-order of Rohit Sharma (60 off 47), Shikhar Dhawan (42 off 32) and the irrepressible Virat Kohli (59 off 33). Incredibly Kohli has only once failed to register a score less than the 59 he compiled on Friday across all ODIs and T20Is on this tour where he has scored 530 runs at a phenomenal average of 106. With the ball India managed to fight back from conceding 62 off the first six overs, with their triumvirate of tweakers Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh putting the skids on the Australian top six and capturing a combined 4/66 off 10 overs.
Captain MS Dhoni overcame a mixed night behind the stumps to claim one catch and two stumpings. While India will be tempted to stick with the same side that won the first two games, they may also wish to experiment with the starting XI and give the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Rishi Dhawan and Umesh Yadav some match-practice prior to the World T20 tournament in March.
The three international T20 matches that the SCG has hosted have thrown up a wide variety of first innings totals from 7/138 to 5/221. The recent Big Bash tournament also produced a volatile range of scores although they did tend to be on the higher side, as highlighted by the Sydney Thunder’s 5/202 against the Sixers in the final BBL game there.
Despite staring down the barrel of a series whitewash Australia have retained favouritism with India outsiders for the third match in a row. While it is tempting to go in on India again the fact they may experiment with the composition of their side is off-putting plus we don’t really want to oppose the red-hot Khawaja.
As mentioned earlier another batsman who is in red-hot form is India’s vice-captain Virat Kohli. Kohli has racked up four half-centuries and two hundreds from seven international innings on this tour, top-scoring on two occasions. His record in this format is particularly impressive, with an average of 50.65, the highest of any batsman to play a minimum of 20 innings.
Kohli has 11 half-centuries from 30 innings at T20I level, including seven from his past ten. Across all formats he averages 58 both against Australia and in Australia where the conditions clearly bring out the best in him. With the home side’s bowling attack having struggled throughout the entire limited overs series I see no reason why Kohli can’t continue his rich vein of form and top-score again for the Indians here.