Preview: India’s quest for glory pits them against champions Australia
The first high-profile fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 sees favourites India squaring up for a battle against current holders Australia. With both teams enjoying a 100% start to the competition, let’s see how the cricket giants are shaping up for the heavyweight clash.
A Virat Kohli-led India kicked off their World Cup with a commanding six-wicket win over South Africa, while the Kangaroos eased up to a 15-run victory over West Indies. Given the luxury of talent on either team’s roster, one can expect a cracker of a showdown at the Oval on Sunday.
While a few showers are expected to touch down at the Oval in the afternoon, the pitch has a habit to always spring a surprise. If conditions are suitable, the track will certainly offer the game to be a high-scoring encounter, while giving a slight edge to the pace attacks. The chasing team, meanwhile, will probably struggle in the second half and could be further exploited with some spin bowling.
While Shikhar Dhawan got his campaign off to a cheap start, Rohit Sharma stood tall in the 228-run chase against South Africa, notching up his second World Cup century in an Indian shirt to help the team to a six-wicket win at Southampton. Given the tenacity of Australia’s pace attack, which is led by Mitchell Starc, the duo will need to rediscover their lethal form as one of the Men in Blue’s best opening pairs.
Captain Virat Kohli, who was eyeing a record-breaking third successive century in three World Cup opening games, was dismissed quite early and will look to bounce back in form against the Aussies, against whom he has scored some fabulous knocks. MS Dhoni, on the other hand, had a composed outing as he stitched a vital fourth-wicket partnership of 79 runs with Rohit before Hardik Pandya (15 runs from seven balls) came in to wrap up the game at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
In terms of bowling, Yuzvendra Chahal was the most successful of the lot with figures of 4-for-51 and is tipped to spell trouble for the Kangaroos’ batting setup. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who scalped two wickets each against the Proteas, will be primed to create havoc for the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch, and Steve Smith.
The reigning champions have two wins from two, including their recent 15-run victory over West Indies at Trent Bridge that brought back their “never-say-die” spirit to the fore. The Aaron Finch-led unit have extended their ODI renaissance to 10 unbeaten games and will be poised to prolong it further when they cross swords with India.
After a dismal start to the game against Windies, a valiant 92 from Nathan Coulter-Nile coupled with support from Steve Smith (73) and Alex Carey (45) propelled Australia from 38/4 to 288 all out. And against an opposition like Virat Kohli’s Men in Blue, Finch, and group will certainly need to buckle up and hope the top-order delivers with a massive contribution.
On the bowling front, Mitchell Starc, the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 edition, registered his sixth five-wicket and second in the World Cup. Doing so, he also became the quickest to 150 ODI wickets (77 matches). Starc’s seam partner Pat Cummins bagged two while leg-break bowler Adam Zampa claimed a wicket to his name.
Based on their head-to-head record against India, Australia will be the slightest favourites to make it three wins from three. But, given the fact that today’s high-stakes game will be a slugfest of runs and wickets, it will be interesting to find out the outcome of the clash between the cricket titans.
Words: William Paul