Australia – The Aussies have now won six of their last nine ODIs against India and, given the dominance of their wins on Friday and Sunday, go in deserved favourites to seal a series clean-sweep in Canberra. In-Game 1 and 2 Australia’s batting was at a standard rarely seen in recent times. While in each game Aaron Finch and David Warner got the side off to the perfect start and Glenn Maxwell executed the finish with typical brutality, it was Steve Smith’s contributions that go a long way to explaining the hosts’ two totals (374 and 389). The centuries, while brilliant, were not the most surprising aspect of Smith’s performance. It was the manner and pace at which he is scoring them (both off 62 balls). The two innings are now the third and fourth quickest in 50-over cricket for Australia.
In both games, the Aussies batted India out of the game in the first innings, which has masked the fact that their bowling — in contrast to their batting — has been somewhat lacklustre. Mitchell Starc (1-65 and 0-82) has underlined this rustiness and will look to bounce back at new surrounds on Wednesday.
Selection-wise, there will be changes. Warner’s groin injury means a likely battle between D’Arcy Short and Matthew Wade to take his spot, while the question of who partners Finch is equally important. Wade, Alex Carey or even Marnus Labuschagne are all seen as chances. Pat Cummins has also been put on ice until the Test series after a crammed schedule since September, and Sean Abbott would appear the frontrunner to replace him.
India – India has been uncharacteristically poor with the ball in Game 1 and 2, although Hardik Pandya’s return to bowling on Sunday now gives them the sixth-bowler cover they have desperately required. Post-game, skipper Virat Kohli said it’s an area they need to address quickly. “I think with the ball we were not that effective. We just didn’t hit the areas that we wanted to consistently…we had to bowl in one area for long enough, and we didn’t.” After Navdeep Saini recorded figures of 1-83 and 0-70, India will likely look to bring in either Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan to refresh their seam attack. With the bat, India can hold their heads high after compiling totals of 308 and 338. However on four occasions in the last two games, one of their top six has passed 70 without converting into a century, in stark contrast with the Aussies. For India to grab victory in Canberra, this needs to change.
While the series is gone, this game is certainly no dead-rubber for India. Kohli’s men need a confidence boost ahead of a long summer down under, with the T20 series starting Friday and just 16 days until a much-anticipated Test series.
Betting – With Cummins and Warner out, plus Pandya’s return to bowling, this match shapes as a tighter contest than the opening two, although the smart money remains with the Aussies. In the individual markets, it’s difficult to look past Smith as the home side’s top scorer. His record against India in ODI cricket is phenomenal. In fact, his last five innings against Kohli’s men read (most recent first): 104, 105, 131, 98 and 69. Five of his 11 ODI tons have come against India, and he averages 65.64 against them, compared with 43.71 overall. With the ball, look for Josh Hazlewood to extract something out of the Manuka wicket — especially with the new ball — to top the wicket tally.
For India, Kohli looks in ominous touch and with Rohit Sharma out of the side remains the obvious top runscorer option. With the ball, Mohammed Shami is the only Indian bowlers with over two wickets this series; look for him to rise above again.