Cardiff: On a newly-laid wicket at the Swalec Stadium here, India's young batsmen will face some Australian chin music when they play a warm-up game on Tuesday. In a series of warm-up matches planned by the ICC, both teams come off comprehensive wins as India prepare for their Champions Trophy opener against South Africa on June 6.
The sun has been beating down at Cardiff and the groundmen are happy that their 'new' wicket should have a bit for batmen and bowlers. Australia have a little edge going into Tuesday's day-match having beaten the West Indies in a warm-up game here on June 1. Chasing 257 for a win, Australian batsmen knocked off the winning runs losing just four wickets with more than 10 overs to spare.
India are also coming off a resounding win against Sri Lanka in Birmingham on Saturday. Twin tons by middle-order generals Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik helped India overhaul a victory target of 334 by five wickets, but India's top order batsmen will still have to prove their mettle against better attacks.
Australia surely have the quality bowlers who can use the conditions well at Cardiff. Mitchell Starc (4 for 29) and Clint McKay (3 for 45) picked seven West Indian wickets between them and the pace duo is just the tip of an Australian iceberg that has genuine pacers like Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner.
In many ways, Tuesday's fixture will enable India figure out their batting line-up before the crucial opener against South Africa. Even if Dhoni insists that Shikhar Dhawan and Murli Vijay are the ones who should open, equations could change after Tuesday's game. Both Dhawan and Vijay had long sessions at the nets on Monday morning under the watchful eyes of coach Duncan Fletcher.
Dhawan will have a point to prove. He was run out for 1 against the Lankans at Birmingham while Vijay scored 18 after a 30-ball stay. If India have to build an innings, both will have to play longer innings.
"The middle-order came under pressure in the Sri Lankan match but we will do well with a better start," said Dhoni, obviously hinting Dhawan and Vijay's role upfront.
India's strength of course lies in its middle order. Kohli (144 off 120 balls) and Karthik (106 off 81 balls) saved India the blushes - India were 110 for four in the 21st over) -- against the Lankans but against Australia scoring at such brisk pace looks very unlikely.
"It's important to respect your wicket and build you innings. The better we do it, our batting will look stronger," said Dhoni. The skipper himself has been holding fort, coming in at No. 7, a position that looks for keeps in this tournament.
More than Sri Lanka, the contest against Australia will be treated more seriously. Defending champions Australia have a lot of lost ground to recover and the way they decimated the West Indians only proves they are hungry and eager.
It is a warm-up game for sure, but no quarter will be given nor asked for as India and Australia match eyeball to eyeball for one last time before heading different ways to handle their group league engagements. While Australia are in group A, India figure in the pool of death alongside, South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies.