India sweat on fitness of key players as final Australia ODI today

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Will Rishabh Pant return? How severe are Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan’s injuries? These are the key questions from India’s perspective as get set for the series-deciding third ODI in Bangalore against Australia on Sunday. Pant missed the second ODI in Rajkot with concussion he suffered during the first ODI. Dhawan didn’t field in Rajkot after being hit on the ribs while batting. Rohit dived over his left shoulder during Australia’s chase and went off in pain. While there’s no official update yet, there are reports that the injuries to Dhawan and Rohit are not severe, which means they should play on Sunday. India will need that badly, as they wouldn’t want to lose any of the momentum they gained in Rajkot.

India were hammered in Mumbai where Australia chased 256 without breaking a sweat, winning by 10 wickets courtesy attacking centuries from David Warner and Aaron Finch. India’s batting had floundered in that game, with Virat Kohli unhappy with some of their batsmen ‘respecting’ Australia’s bowlers a bit too much. India showed they could correct their mistakes quickly, bouncing back in style in Rajkot. They showed intent through the innings, with Rohit giving a quick start before Dhawan and Kohli carried on. India had a slight slip in the middle overs but they found a new middle-order hero in KL Rahul, who smashed a 52-ball 80 from No. 5, a position he was batting in only for the second time in his ODI career. Rahul’s adaptability now gives India plenty of options, especially given how well he has kept wickets in the two matches. It also allows Kohli to stick to No. 3; the India captain evidently enjoyed returning to his position, scoring 78 off 76.

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India’s bowling did the job too, coming on top even when they were put under pressure multiple times during Australia’s chase. Ravindra Jadeja bowled a lot slower through the air, getting the key wickets of Finch and Marnus Labuschagne. Kuldeep Yadav was costly initially but he came back for his final spell and got Alex Carey and Steve Smith, who was two away from a ton. Jasprit Bumrah was brilliant throughout although he managed only one wicket, that of Adam Zampa’s. Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Shami got five wickets among them and bowled yorkers at will.

India will need all that and more on Sunday, as they are up against another belter of a track in Bangalore. Australia’s batsmen have all had decent hits –– Warner and Finch in Mumbai, Smith and Labuschagne in Rajkot. In Glenn Maxwell’s absence, they do miss some firepower in the lower order but the top order’s form should make them happy. Australia might think about bringing in Josh Hazlewood for Kane Richardson, who went for 73 in 10 overs for two wickets. Mitchell Starc was even more expensive, giving 78 from his quota without bagging a wicket. But unless Australia want to rest him, it’s unlikely he’ll be dropped.

The two sides traveled from Rajkot to Bangalore on Saturday, which meant there was no time for practise. But conditions in Bangalore are well-known to be a batting paradise, which sets the stage well for Sunday’s decider.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, Shivam Dube, Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, KL Rahul, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav

Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc & wk), Pat Cummins (vc), Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner, Adam Zampa.