All eyes on the skies in Cuttack

5th ODI preview: Washout likely due to unseasonal rain.


CUTTACK: All eyes are turned to the heavens ahead of the fifth ODI between Indian and Australia at the Barabati Stadium, with unseasonal rain threatening to play spoilsport in what is a must-win game for the home team. Having scuppered India’s chase in the fourth ODI at Ranchi, the elements loom large once again and the Meteorological department has forecast more of the same.

Both teams were unable to practice on the match eve due to severe waterlogging at the ground, although the pitch was blanketed safely under three layers of covers. With all tickets sold out, there are plans to use a helicopter – not the one synonymous with the Indian captain – to dry the turf. But for that to work first the rain has to relent.

India trail 1-2 in the seven-match series, with the last two fixtures scheduled to be played at Nagpur and Bangalore respectively. This implies that MS Dhoni’s team desperately needs a positive result at Cuttack, failing which they will need to win the two remaining matches just to restore parity.

While the weather remains out of the purview of mortals, there are other cricket parameters still under human control – somewhat. Dhoni’s move to replace the erratic Ishant Sharma with Mohammad Shami paid rich dividend when the fast bowler turned in a fiery opening spell at Ranchi. The young Bengal speedster bowled Aaron Finch and Shane Watson with delectable inswingers. That Australia recovered to post yet another big score in indicative of how glaring India’s failure at the ‘death’ has been.

It was also surprising that Dhoni persisted with the expensive R Vinay Kumar and chose to omit the dependable Bhuvneshwar Kumar to make place for the left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat. Vinay denied George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell centuries at Ranchi, but he was expensive as usual. It is likely that Bhuvneshar may return to bolster the attack at Cuttack. What remains uncertain is whether Dhoni will drop his off-colour Chennai Super Kings teammate R. Ashwin and give a chance to leggie Amit Mishra.

Another cause for concern is India’s fielding. The hosts dropped at least five catches in the last match, including that of skipper George Bailey before he had opened his account. Bailey went on to score a magnificent 98 to drive Australia to another fighting total, before rain put an end to things. Surprisingly, Bailey was dropped by one of the better Indian fielders - Virat Kohli, who has been India's leading scorer in the series. But even a hundred in every match doesn't allow a player the luxury of fluffing sitters.


India (from): MS Dhoni (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jaydev Unadkat, Ambati Rayudu, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar; Australia (from): George Bailey (c), Phillip Hughes, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Callum Ferguson and Moises Henriques.

Match starts at 1.30 PM IST

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