Australia – The Aussies could hardly be happier with their start to the international summer, plundering 6/374 to record their highest ever ODI total against India on Friday. While many chipped in, it was Steve Smith’s 62-ball century (the third-quickest ever for Australia) that was perhaps most surprising and could set the tone for a dominant summer. Despite a wayward start with the ball the victory was never truly in doubt and means a victory here would seal a series win and first blood for the tour.
In the last 12 months, Justin Langer’s side has developed a distinctive strategy with the bat. That is, to avoid going overly hard early, pacing the innings with wickets in the sheds, before accelerating hard in the final 15 overs. This worked to a tee on Friday — aided by some poor Indian bowling and fielding — and will be a blueprint going forward. The luxury of floating guys like Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis in the batting lineup, before they can also contribute with the ball, gives skipper Aaron Finch great depth and flexibility.
Selection-wise, the Aussies will go in largely the same as Friday. However, there were concerns about a potential side strain to Stoinis. Should he be deemed unfit, young star Cameron Green could be a chance of making his international debut, although Sean Abbott or even the experienced Moises Henriques could also be options.
India – India were decidedly poor in Game 1, and while they will no doubt improve there were some worrying signs for skipper Virat Kohli. Firstly, they got their selections horribly wrong and clearly have changes to make ahead of Sunday after the selectors somehow picked a side without either batting or bowling depth. If Australia looked settled, India appears far from it. Navdeep Saini (1-83) was wayward in the series opener, and without Hardik Pandya as a sixth bowler, Kohli was forced to get 10 overs from both him and a struggling Yuzvendra Chahal (1-89 off 10) who was similarly made to bowl in the final 10 overs to a red-hot Maxwell.
Second, they were as poor in the field as they’ve been for some time. Giving lives to Smith (two, in fact), Finch and Maxwell, they were punished while ground fielding in the middle overs was similarly lacklustre. This, as Kohli would tell his charges, is a reflection of their mindset, and something that needs to change swiftly given they face five games in the next 10 days.
So where do the changes come from? A sixth bowler is needed, but there is no standout option. Manish Pandey could come in and bowl some overs, but that’s hardly addressing the issue. Kohli himself might have to roll the arm over, or simply rely on his five bowlers executing.
Betting – While it was Finch, Smith and Maxwell who deservedly gathered the plaudits on Friday, David Warner (69) looked in excellent nick, continuing the form that saw him finish as the third-highest run-scorer in the recently-concluded IPL. He remains a strong top runscorer option for the hosts. With the ball, Game 1 wicket-taker selection Josh Hazlewood looked for all money to have it in the bag before a late flurry to Adam Zampa saw him home. With the pitch slightly holding, the leg spinner looks a shrewder pick this time around. For the tourists, Shikhar Dhawan looks to have continued his IPL form with a flashy 74 and, as an opener, is always a strong hope in the runscorer markets. With the ball, Mohammed Shami also looked in strong form and is my pick for the most wickets.