Hyderabad : India need to break out of the Twenty20 mode if they have to draw level in the seven-match series when they take on Australia in the third one-day international (ODI) here Friday.
Australia took a 1-0 lead with their emphatic 84-run win in the second match in Kochi Tuesday after the first match in Bangalore was abandoned because of rain last Saturday.
The Indian batting faltered while chasing the 308-run target and were bundled out for 222 in 47.3 overs, giving an impression that they were still in the sam-bang mode of Twenty20 cricket after being crowned World Champions in South Africa only last week.
The third match of the seven-match Future Cup India must win if they do not want to remain far behind the marauding Australians.
If the hosts lose, they will need to win all the remaining four games to win the series, something easier said than done against the four-time World Cup winners.
After the first two matches, India seems to have problems aplenty.
The bowling, for instance, has failed in both games after its fine display in South Africa, the batting has failed to click and the fielding too has suffered.
India had a lucky escape in the first match. As they chased an imposing target of 309, rain gods came to their rescue as the match was called off with less than three overs bowled in their innings.
At Kochi, the hosts were not that lucky and lost to a team that was far better cricket on the day.
In the both matches, India made early inroads into the Australians batting line-up, but faded away after the first 20 overs. On both occasions, the undisputed number one ODI team in the world batted their way out of trouble with good partnerships and clever batting.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni maintained that Twenty20 is past but the players’ performances have failed to reflect that on the field.
Batsmen have gifted their wickets to needless extravagant shots and spinners have failed to pick up wickets in the middle overs after good starts by the medium pacers.
Levelling the series in Hyderabad will depend on how the Indian batsmen pace their innings.
Sourav Ganguly, who was rested in Kochi following his hamstring injury during the Bangalore game, is expected to return to the team. If he passes the firtness test, either Gautam Gambhir or Robin Uthappa will make way for him at the top of the batting order.
Indian batsmen have to stitch together good partnerships against a not so strong Australian bowling attack.
Australia are boosted with the expected return of captain Ricky Ponting, who missed the first two matches due to injury. But the team management will have a tough time deciding who makes way for Ponting.
Brad Haddin, who was Ponting’s replacement in both outings, batted beyond expectation as he played match-winning knocks of 69 and an unbeaten 87.
While the Australian spinners found good spin at Kochi, India’s Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar failed to make an impression on the visitors, considered vulnerable against spin bowling.
Harbhajan did not play at Bangalore, and in Kochi he bowled too flat.
For Australia, it has been a smooth passage so far despite the fact that their famed top order has failed to fire against the Indian new ball bowlers Zaheer Khan and S. Sreesanth.
But the Australian middle order has been up to the task both at Bangalore and Kochi just when it mattered the most.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (vice-captain/wicketkeeper), Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds and Adam Voges
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Dinesh Karthik, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Ramesh Powar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan, S. Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Suresh Shastri (India)
Third umpire: G.A. Pratapkumar (India)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)