India eye victory to remain alive in the series

It will be a litmus test for India's resilience as they take on Australia in the do-or-die sixth ODI on Sunday.

updated: November 07, 2009 07:35 IST
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It will be a litmus test for India's resilience as they take on Australia in the do-or-die sixth one-dayer here on Sunday, fully aware that any slip-up in the game would allow the visitors to clinch the series.

With the seven-match series tantalisingly poised 2-3 in favour of the visitors, India has no other option but to win both Sunday's and the last rubber in Mumbai against the spirited but depleted Australia if they desire to stamp their authority in world cricket.

However, the task won't be a cake walk for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men as there will be immense pressure on them.

To add to that even though Australia are a depleted lot after losing more than half of their regular players to injuries, the visitors' confidence are on a high, especially after pulling two narrow wins with a second string bowling attack.

Indian skipper Dhoni begs to differ that there will be additional pressure on his men in Sunday's must-win match.

"There is pressure in every game. At this level, there will always be pressure," he said.

But the factors which would worrying Dhoni ahead of the encounter is the team's bowling department and the lower order's inability to finish things off.

The Indian pace attack lacked sting as Australian batsmen made merry against the ordinary bowling to pile up a mammoth 350 for four in the last match.

Pace trio of Ashish Nehra, who impressed in the earlier matches, Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel, who replaced out-of-form Ishant Sharma, went for runs in the placid batting friendly wicket of Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi stadium.

Even left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who shone with the ball in the series, failed to make his mark in the game.

However, one heartening thing for Dhoni was spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh's return to form.

If the loopholes in the bowling department were not enough, the inconsistency of the batsmen is another problem Dhoni has to take care of.

Chasing an imposing 351 for victory, India, riding on Sachin Tendulkar's breathtaking 141-ball 175 run knock, very nearly pulled off a sensational win in Hyderabad.

But what did them in was the lack of support for Tendulkar from the other end and the tailenders inability to finish things off in two successive matches. And Dhoni would be hoping that his team would be third time lucky here on Sunday.

With Munaf turning out to be a disappointment, Ishant is likely to return to the playing eleven for the day affair, while the rest of the side is expected to remain the same even though a few eyebrow's were raised on Virender Sehwag availaibility after he didn't turn out for practice on Saturday.

However, team management was quick to clarify that there was nothing wrong with Sehwag and the Delhi dasher opted out from practice as it was an optional session.

Dhoni's counterpart Ricky Ponting, on the other hand, would be a relieved man as his depleted team had turned the table despite being 1-2 down in the series.

Even though they are without their first choice side after Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Callum Ferguson, Nathan Bracken (ruled out before the series) and Brett Lee James Hopes, Tim Paine, Peter Siddle, Moises Henriques (sustained injuries in the middle of the series), Australia showed great character to be on the driver's seat.

And skipper Ponting was quick to nod the fact.

"Considering the big injury list on this tour and the couple of our better players who didn't make the tour, I think it's remarkable," Ponting said.

"When you take all those things into consideration, the way we are continuing to improve our cricket is fantastic," he said.

Victorian allrounder Andrew McDonald, replacement for Henriques and New South Wales pacer Burt Cokley (for Peter Siddle) have joined the Australian squad for the remainder of the series.

Interestingly, unlike the wickets in Mohali and Hyderabad, the Nehru Stadium strip is unpredictable as ODI cricket is returning to the city after two years -- the scheduled India-England ODI last year in November was cancelled due to 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

To add to that the wicket here does not boast of an impressive batting record with only two from the 13 matches played so far recording scores beyond 300 run mark.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Hussey, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Jon Holland, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Clint McKay, Andrew McDonald, Burt Cokley.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Sudeep Tyagi, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja.

Hours of play: 8.30 am to 12 noon; 12.40 pm to close of play.