Brisbane: The champions lead. The challengers are suddenly stuttering and the team that many considered as the dark horse of the ongoing tri-nation series, have suddenly turned their fortunes. So as India get set to face Australia here on Sunday, the fact that there is just a point between the two teams, promises that an all-out battle is at hand.
This tri-series has suddenly become interesting. Sri Lanka's bonus-point win over Australia in Sydney on Friday means that at the halfway stage of the tournament, only three points separate the three teams. Australia now find themselves without their regular captain and needing a victory to regain top spot on the Commonwealth Bank Series table. Their loss to Sri Lanka was comprehensive, and the batsmen need to lift after they slipped to 8 for 104 on Friday. David Warner is yet to fire in this series and a big innings from him would be a major boost for the team, while Ricky Ponting has also been disappointing, and too much has been asked of David Hussey in the lower middle order. In the field they have been sloppy, in Ponting's own words, and they need to sharpen up in the second half of the series.
India have started to find their groove in the shorter format after a miserable Test tour. Their last match was a tie with Sri Lanka but that followed two victories and notably, the senior top-order batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are yet to impose themselves on the series. That means there is plenty of room for India to improve further. And they can take encouragement from the venue: they have won their past two one-day internationals against Australia at the Gabba. However, Australia haven't been beaten in Brisbane since that last loss to India, in March 2008.
Australia LLWWW (Most recent first)
In the spotlight
Ricky Ponting might have the captaincy back, albeit temporarily, but what he really needs is runs. So far in this series Ponting has made 2, 1, 6 and 2, and the slump is all the more baffling considering his excellent form in the Test series against India. It is the third time in his career he has had four consecutive single-figure scores in ODIs. None of those lean trots have stretched out to five innings - yet.
Gautam Gambhir has scored a 92 and a 91 so far in this series but is yet to turn one of those starts into a hundred. It is now 14 months since Gambhir has scored a century in any format for India, but they would be more than happy with another 90 against Australia.
Michael Clarke has been ruled out of this match, meaning Ricky Ponting will lead the side again, and Mitchell Marsh is also out of action due to a back injury. Australia's Twenty20 captain George Bailey has joined the group to help cover for the loss of Clarke, but an ODI debut for him appears unlikely unless another injury is sustained. The Victorian left-arm spinner Jon Holland remains in the squad, although Xavier Doherty should retain his spot. Ben Hilfenhaus is the one member of the fast-bowling group who is yet to play a match in the series and a couple of lean matches from Mitchell Starc could encourage the selectors to bring in Hilfenhaus for him.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Peter Forrest, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Mitchell Starc/Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Virender Sehwag missed India's previous game due to back spasms and is unlikely to be risked again in this match. There might also be a place once again for Zaheer Khan, who had a calf problem, perhaps at the expense of Umesh Yadav, while Praveen Kumar might replace Irfan Pathan.
India (possible) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Praveen Kumar.
Pitch and conditions
The Gabba hosted a Ryobi Cup match a week ago and Queensland nearly chased down 285. There are runs at the venue, but also some assistance for the fast bowlers. The forecast is for fine weather and a top of 31C