Rain threat looms large over final ODI

Updated: Oct 23, 2010, 13:16 PM IST

Margao: Unseasonal rains have cast a doubt over Sunday’s third and final one-day international between India and Australia, who desperately need a win to square the series and avoid their first series defeat against the hosts in over two decades.

Rains started lashing this Goan town last evening and continued till past midnight before letting off. However it started raining again in the morning and also denied the two teams practice session.

The met office has predicted more rains and the sky was heavily overcast in the morning.

India have taken a 1-0 lead by chasing down a stiff target of 290 in the second ODI at Vishakapatnam. The first clash at Kochi was washed out without a ball being bowled last Sunday.

If Sunday’s match is also washed out, Australia will leave the Indian shores without a single win, having lost the Test series before the One-day series. The last time the Aussies had lost a ODI series in India was in 1986-87 when the hosts had won by a 3-2 margin.

Though without several key players, including marauding opener Virender Sehwag and champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar, the home team were undeterred in living up to the stiff task set by the Australians.

India have won their last two encounters – against England and Sri Lanka - at this venue and a hat-trick of wins in front of a capacity crowd of 27,000 would be the perfect ending to the rubber for them.

With the batting line-up clicking in unison after the early fall of debutant opener Shikhar Dhawan and his comrade-in-arms Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma looks set to warm the bench for another match.

The Indians would be pleased not only with the superb display dished out by young Virat Kohli, who piloted the home team across the finish line with his classy 118, but also of Yuvraj Singh who has been struggling to get into some sort of form of late.

Yuvraj, who made 58, may not have batted with the gay abandon with which he has been associated with in the past, but his getting into the groove with the World Cup fast approaching is a welcome sign for the team.

Suresh Raina has been in cracking form, especially in the shorter formats of the game, and showed what he’s capable of in his 47-ball cameo that was worth an unbeaten 71.

Even with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni falling for a duck, there was enough in the batting tank to see them to the target.

Rookie spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who has caught the attention through his exploits for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL and CLT20 events, justified his inclusion with an impressive nine-over stint for 34 runs and the wicket of Michael Hussey in Vishakapatnam.

The wicket of the vastly experienced Australian southpaw, who has revelled in playing on the slow surfaces of India with his ability to play the ball late, would have given the young Tamil Nadu spinner a major confidence-boost.

With the hosts preferring to go in with only Ashwin as their frontline slow bowler at Vizag, it was left to Yuvraj and Raina to fill in the fifth bowler’s slot with their non-regular spin bowling and they did a decent job in the second ODI.

Ravindra Jadeja seems set for another stint in the reserves.

The Aussies would be fervently wishing that the rain gods would not play truant and allow the match to go on as scheduled so that they have a chance to at least square the rubber.

The tourists are also missing several key players and, with the departure home of Hussey and the injured Doug Bollinger after the Vizag match, their team is severely depleted with only 12 remaining to choose from.

Callum Ferguson will replace Hussey, who made 69 in the second ODI and also put on a century stand for the third wicket with skipper Michael Clarke in Vizag.

The batting will rely heavily on Clarke and the hard-hitting Cameron White, and the visitors would be hoping for a flying start from their openers for this duo to feast upon.

Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine who opened at Vizag, were sent back cheaply in the previous tie by Nehra and the Aussies might be tempted to include David Warner, who was seen smacking the ball hard and high at the nets yesterday.

The new ball attack - manned by Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc and John Hastings - being inexperienced, the Aussies would look up to off spinner Nathan Huaritz to check the flow of runs.

But Huaritz has been largely ineffective on this entire tour with the Indian batsmen playing him with a measure of comfort.

Coach Nielsen has backed him to the hilt and said yesterday the wicket conditions, especially their slowness and lack of bounce, has not helped the bowler who is used to faster and bouncier tracks back home.

Huaritz has one last chance to make some impression on the Indian batsmen before he flies home with the rest of his teammates to confront England in the Ashes series.

Teams:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c & wk), Murali Vijay, Shikhwar Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Aashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Callum Ferguson, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes, Clint McKay, Shaun Marsh, Steven Smith, Michael Starc and David Warner.

Umpires: Billy Bowden and Amish Saheba

Match referee: Chris Broad

Hours of play: 9:00 am to 12:30 pm; 1:10 pm till close.

PTI