It’s the knockout before the knockouts as hosts India clash with Australia in the last league match for both teams in the 2016 ICC Twenty20 World Cup. With the winner set to reach the semis and loser taking the route home, to say that the match at Mohali on Sunday March 27 will be engrossing, is stating the obvious.
New Zealand surprised many by turning out to be the top team in Group II while India and Australia have managed to keep their chances alive. India were lucky to scrape through against Bangladesh by the tiniest of margins while Australia have looked good so far without being spectacular.
With openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma failing to produce their usual magic, it has been left to their talisman Virat Kohli to lead the charge for the hosts. The middle order continues to be wobbly with Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina yet to convince the critics.
Bowling looks good with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja making best use of the turning pitches on offer. The aging warhorse Ashish Nehra seems to enjoy the role of mentoring and could play a crucial role against Aussies. It will remain to be seen if India choose to draft another spinner into their XI with wily old fox Harbhajan Singh waiting in the wings.
Australia have no such worries with their batting as Usman Khawaja transformed his form into national colors seamlessly. Steve Smith recaptured his form at the right time in the last match but question marks still persist on who should partner Khawaja. David Warner is wasted in the middle order and could be of more use at the top of the order.
Adam Zampa is improving with every game while James Faulkner is proving a handful with his bag of tricks with a five-for in the last match. Nathan Coulter-Nile will continue to lead the pacers while Glenn Maxwell will be important in the expected turning conditions – although Mohali is one of the more bouncy grounds in India.
These two sides recently played a three-match series in Australia ending lopsidedly in India’s favor. The Indian spinners reveled in tying the Aussies in a tangle and could enjoy the same course again. But don’t rule out the Aussies who could find the Mohali pitch a little more suitable to their style than any other spinning tracks of India. At odds of $2.16 at Sportsbet, it is worth risking an Australian win.
Watch out for Smith with the bat, who loves taking India on in any format. Ditto for Kohli who enjoys facing the Aussies while Ashwin could do the star trick with the ball for the hosts. The vulnerability of the Aussies against turning ball is well known to the Indians but their own difficulties on rank turners wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by their opposition either. The winner may be determined by who adjusts better to the conditions!
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