The Oval, London
June 9, Sunday; 15:00 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar
The main picture
We have had 13 matches in the World Cup so far and, considering the form guide and the player availability in both the teams, the India-Australia match at The Oval on Sunday is the first real heavyweight clash of the tournament. Both teams are at full strength and even with the tournament in its nascent stage, a victory for either India or Australia will be significant in the top-four race.
Australia, with the 15-run win over the West Indies on Thursday, stretched their winning run in ODIs to 10 matches, which began with this victory over India in Ranchi in March. Australia had struggled to fire collectively before that win over India, but the form of their batsmen, starting with captain Aaron Finch at the top of the order, had been the greater concern. Whether they batted first or second, Australia tended to lose Finch early and while Usman Khawaja kept getting runs, the middle order struggled to find the right tempo to post totals their bowlers could defend or chase even sub-par scores batting second.
Finch’s return to form has been one of the keys to Australia’s resurgence, but they now also have most bases covered compared to when they won the series against India in March. Mitchell Starc hadn’t played an ODI for six months before Australia’s opening World Cup match against Afghanistan on June 1, but he was central to the win over the West Indies on Thursday. Starc’s partnership with Pat Cummins has been potent for Australia so far, evident in the pair picking 11 wickets in two matches. While David Warner and Steve Smith have made a half-century each on their returns to the national side, the players who have been part of the team since the duo was banned in March 2018 have had the greater impact in the first two matches of the World Cup.
While India began their World Cup campaign with a victory over an under-strength South Africa and Australia came through the West Indies test after brushing aside Afghanistan, the result on Sunday will help lay down a marker for either team. For India, this is their first real test and, having lost their last three matches to Australia, this is an opportunity for Virat Kohli and co. to set the record straight and announce their arrival at the World Cup.
Sunday’s match will also pit two of the better bowling attacks in the tournament. India and Australia’s bowling attacks have set up their team’s wins and it is one of the match-ups to watch out for.
The days leading up to the match have been engulfed by the controversy surrounding the insignia on the back of MS Dhoni’s wicketkeeping gloves, with the International Cricket Council’s clothing and equipment regulations clearly stating that the playing equipment can have only the manufacturer’s logo embossed on them. It will surely not be a factor on Sunday. Dhoni has enjoyed batting against Australia this year, with each of his four fifties coming against this opposition. Dhoni will relish the pace-heavy Australian bowling attack and his ability to take the sting out of an explosive spell from Starc or Cummins during the middle phase of the innings will be vital.
Pitch report and weather conditions
The pitch at The Oval has belied expectations in the way it has behaved. Three matches have been played here so far and, while the teams batting first in the first two matches (England and Bangladesh) posted 300-plus scores, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the batsmen. Taking the pace off the ball has proved effective and the bounce has been spongy too. For the pace bowlers, therefore, varying the pace of their deliveries and hitting the pitch will be the way to go on Sunday.
The weather forecast says that Sunday will see sunny skies with patchy rain possible around 6pm local time.
India vs Australia playing 11
Both teams are likely to be unchanged from the previous match.
India playing XI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Kuldeep Yadav
Australia playing XI: 1 Aaron Finch (c), 2 David Warner, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Adam Zampa
The battles up front, between the new-ball bowlers and the opening batsmen, could be decisive on Sunday. India and Australia have bowlers for all types of conditions and it could be that the team who bat better might well go on to win this heavyweight contest.