India finally tasted victory in the final T20 match against Australia. Fielding was sharp, the bowling looked accurate and the batting finished the match on a high. With a the opening match of a tr-nation series scheduled against the hosts on Sunday, MS Dhoni's team will look to prove form has returned to the men in blue.
Five summers ago India regained some pride after an unhappy Test series by claiming the triangular ODI trophy. It was the start of their road to lifting the World Cup in 2011. This time around the tourists are again seeking a new start, having been bullied and battered to a 4-0 hiding by Australia in the Tests. There was little of the acrimony that shrouded 2007-08, partly because India were never really close enough to Australia for the two combatants to trade blows, and the tourists will enjoy the chance to return to a format they are well versed in.
Despite a mediocre showing at the World Cup, Australia retained their No. 1 ODI ranking, and under Michael Clarke have won series in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa to maintain the position. The team is in a state of some transition, as injuries and form have resulted in the inclusion of several new faces in the squad for the first three matches, Peter Forrest among them. Ricky Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey remain critical contributors to the batting order, while Brett Lee's speed and experience has again been called upon.
India have been bolstered by the return of Sachin Tendulkar for his first ODI assignment since the World Cup, while a victory in the second Twenty20 international at the MCG on Friday night gave the visitors their first win of any kind on the tour. MS Dhoni leads a side that is growing gradually younger, with the batting trio of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma all expected to score heavily across the series, as well as providing plenty of energy in the field.
Australia WLWLW (Most recent first)
In the spotlight
Ryan Harris built up a formidable ODI record in 17 matches up to July 2010, scooping 41 wickets at 16.12, his strike-rate an eye-popping 20.60. However injuries and cautious selection limited him strictly to Test match duty in the 18 months since, preventing Harris from attempting to maintain his enviable record. It will be a difficult task for Harris to keep nabbing wickets with such regularity against India and Sri Lanka, while also maintaining his fitness to be sound for the West Indies tour that follows this series.
Sachin Tendulkar has not donned the blue shirt for India since the World Cup final, concentrating on Test matches instead. However the pursuit of his 100th international century has now gone on far longer than Tendulkar or any of his team-mates would have liked, hastening his return for the triangular series. Given the decent if not altogether imperious form displayed by the ODI team in his absence, Tendulkar will need to demonstrate his value quickly, for unless he intends to go on to another World Cup, the time for regeneration is at hand.
Having omitted Shaun Marsh due to his dismal Test form, the national selectors must choose who should partner David Warner at the top of the order. Matthew Wade excelled at the top in the first T20 in Sydney, while Ponting, Clarke and Hussey have all taken the role in the past. Daniel Christian should slip into the allrounder's spot while Mitchell Marsh is absent for a Sheffield Shield fixture.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 David Hussey, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Xavier Doherty.
The question of where to include Tendulkar hangs over India's selections, and a decision must also be made about whether to leave out a batsman to make room for Ravindra Jadeja. The likes of Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar are in a duel for the final pace berth.
India (possible) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Zaheer Khan.
Pitch and conditions
The MCG surface should be sound for batting while offering little for the bowlers, though rain and cloud is forecast for the afternoon.