India aim to keep all-win record intact at Vizag

Visakhapatnam: Back in their happy-hunting ground, an upbeat India will look to take the lead against a wounded and depleted Australia in the second ODI here on Wednesday after the series-opener was washed out in Kochi.

The three-ODI series has now been reduced to a two-match affair after the first match in Kochi two days ago was abandoned before a ball could be bowled because of heavy rains.

Back-to-back losses in the recently-concluded two-Test series have dented the world champion Australia`s pride and they would be looking to get back at the hosts at the Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy ADA-VDCA Cricket Stadium tomorrow.

Known for their fighting spirit, Australia have won every one-day series in India since 1998 and the pressure will clearly be on Michael Clarke who had a barren Test series that added fuel to criticism against him.

Clarke will lead a side light on experience after regular skipper Ricky Ponting, all-rounder Shane Watson and pacer Mitchell Johnson were rested from the series, while the fast bowling stocks were further thinned by injuries to Shaun Tait, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle among others.

For Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men, it is all about carrying on the momentum on a ground where India have won all the two matches they have played.

It was at the same venue that Dhoni had announced his arrival on the big stage with a 123-ball 148 against Pakistan in what was his fifth ODI on April 5, 2005.

Playing hard and true, unlike typical Indian wickets, the Vizag strip saw a total of 654 runs scored with India winning comfortably.

India followed it with a win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI that the stadium hosted on February 17, 2007.

Dhoni did not get a chance to bat then as Yuvraj Singh guided the team home and the Team India skipper would look for another big knock when the match is played here tomorrow for the first time under lights.

Bright and sunny weather here means that the cricket starved crowd of the coastal city in Andhra Pradesh will witness an international match after about four years.

Star players including Sachin Tendulkar and Ponting being rested, the series is seen as a battle of upcoming prospects in the two cricketing powerhouses ahead of the ICC World Cup early next year.

Dhoni will lead a new-look Indian side in absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, while the bowling department will see the absence of speedster Zaheer Khan and spinners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha. But the team is bolstered by the return of an off-colour but determined Yuvraj Singh, who was dropped for the Asia Cup.

The stylish Punjab batsman, not in best of form, will look to find the rhythm at the same venue where he had scored an unbeaten 95 in India`s win over Sri Lanka.

With one more series -- against New Zealand -- coming up, this will perhaps be his last chance to pass the litmus test before the quadrennial extravaganza next year.

In the absence of regular openers, the in-form Murali Vijay will start the proceedings with Shikhar Dhawan looking to don Team India colours as well.

The line-up may also mark the debut of explosive rookie batsman Saurabh Tiwary who played for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

"He has got exposure against the best bowlers in the IPL and CL T20. I think it is an ideal opportunity for us to give him a place in the final XI and let him play the kind of cricket he plays," Dhoni had said.

The side also has the tried and tested trio of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who will again be under scrutiny for the middle order slots.

With little assistance from the Vizag strip, Indian seamers of Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and rookie Vinay Kumar will be tested.

In R Ashwin, India have an in-form off-spinner who had a fantastic run in the Twenty20 version helping Chennai Super Kings win the Champions League. It will be a big test for him ahead of the World Cup.

Australia too will have a new-look side, with players like David Warner, John Hastings and Mitchell Starc keen to show an aptitude for Indian conditions.

"This is great experience for a lot of the guys who haven`t played international cricket especially in India," said Clarke.

"I think India is one of the greatest places to play international cricket, but it is a challenge, it is hard, and this is where the World Cup is going to be as well.”

"There`s a lot of guys who`ve been waiting for an opportunity, been doing well in first-class cricket, but now with Watto, Punter and Mitch resting and the other bowlers being injured, it has given the guys an opportunity.”

"Our preparation is for the World Cup, the selectors pick certain guys to see how they go in these conditions to work out who is going to be in that squad.”

Warner will be the danger man for India especially on the flat track of Vizag while the Aussie middle-order will be manned by Clarke who will be keen to score runs after forgettable outings in the Test series. In Michael Hussey, the Aussies have the experience while Callum Ferguson will be the one to watch out for especially after his stupendous show in Champions League Twenty20.

Doug Bollinger will lead the bowling attack if he has recovered from the abdominal strain that ruled him out of the Bangalore Test.

Youngster Clint McKay is likely to partner him while Mitchell Starc may make his debut in case the senior-most bowler misses out.

A batting paradise, the Vizag strip is seen as one of the best batting pitches of the country and has seen totals of more than 650 and 500 in the last two occasions.

Andhra`s director of cricket operations MSK Prasad has promised a run feast for the fans.

"The pitch is a batting beauty. We expect another run feast," the former India wicketkeeper said.

But with the stadium hosting its first match under lights, dew may play a role towards the evening.

Teams: (from)

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, Michael Hussey, Tim Paine (wk), Doug Bollinger, Callum Ferguson, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes, Clint McKay, Shaun Marsh, Steven Smith, Michael Starc and David Warner.

Umpires: Billy Bowden, Shavir Tarapore; TV: Sudhir Asnani; Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Hours of play: 2.30pm to 6pm and 6.45pm to end of the match.