Nagpur: Stopping a resurgent Australia would not be easy but a confident India would look to end the series on a high when they face each other in the fifth and final ODI match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur on Sunday.
The series already secured, India got the opportunity to test their bench strength in the fourth ODI but the team fell short by 21 runs, halting its nine-match winning run. All three bowlers, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Axar Patel, proved expensive in their first game of the series but it was not entirely their fault that India ended up on the losing side.
Virat Kohli defended the bowling performance that allowed Australia to post 334 for five but said the batsmen could have done better on a batsman-friendly pitch.
So, it won’t be a surprise if Kohli gives his reserves bowlers another game on Sunday and more rest to Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav.
“We have won the series and you have to try out guys at some stage. You need to test your bench strength as well and you need to give those guys game time,” said Kohli post the defeat in Bengaluru.
On the batting front, KL Rahul may get a game as he remains the only batsman in the squad to not have played in the series so far.
The team management will have to reassess their plans for the remaining game as both sides would want to end the series on a high and carry the momentum into the three T20s contest beginning in Ranchi on October 7.
India openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane had set up a perfect platform in Bengaluru with a second straight century partnership but the middle-order could not capitalise on that.
Hardik Pandya being promoted to four in the batting order worked brilliantly in Indore but did not yield a similar return on Thursday.
Pandya’s promotion led to MS Dhoni being dropped to number six and the former captain hardly got time to get his eye-in before going ballistic, something he prefers doing nowadays with his big hitting power on the wane.
Coming to bat ahead of Dhoni, Pandya and Kedar Jadhav got enough time to close out the game but they were unable to do the finishing job.
Pressure is mounting on Manish Pandey, who is yet to score a half century in the series. He got out at the wrong time at his home ground and Dhoni was left to do all by himself towards the end of the chase.
Australia had their chances even in the earlier games but they could only grab them in Bengaluru.
It was a much needed all-round performance that saw bowlers complementing the good work done by the batsmen.
The pace trio of Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson bowled with pace and precision in the death overs to take the game away from the Indians.
The batting looks a lot more potent ever since the return of Aaron Finch, who came up with a fine 94 after a sublime 124 on his comeback game.
His opener partner David Warner too had a memorable game as he rose to the occasion to smash 124 in his 100th ODI.
It remains to be seen if Australia bring back the struggling Glenn Maxwell, who was dropped in the last game with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade taking his place.
The other wicket-keeper in the squad, Peter Handscomb, did rather well with a timely 43 off 30 balls, taking his team well beyond 300.