India favoured to win ODI series

Bangalore, Nov 1 (IANS) Cricket fans are hoping for an advance Diwali gift by way of India clinching the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia by winning the seventh and concluding fixture here Saturday.

The seven-match series between the top two ODI teams is evenly poised at 2-2 with two games at Ranchi and Cuttack washed out.

Indications are the last match could be another high-scoring affair with India, enjoying the advantages of playing at home and with a clutch of talented young batsmen, starting favourites.

The remaining four matches saw totals in excess of 300 that accurately reflect the dominance of bat over ball with the bowlers, courtesy the new fielding restrictions and flat pitches, being taken to the cleaners.

The fact that bowlers have taken only 52 wickets in nine completed innings shows the pasting they have received with a total of 2,889 runs being scored.

In the event, the batsmen of both teams have relished the helpful conditions and there is little reason to believe it would be anything different on the morrow on the traditionally batsman-friendly pitch at the Mangalam Chinnaswamy Stadium here.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, despite the big series-levelling win at Nagpur a couple of days back, lamented the plight of the bowlers who have less cover in the deep due to the five-fielders-in-the-ring rule that came into effect this season.

So much so that among the biggest casualty among the bowlers has been Indian spearhead Ishant Sharma, dropped after the third game as by then he had conceded 189 runs in just 24 overs while picking up just two wickets.

In contrast, the other seamer Vinay Kumar who might get to play on his home turf here, has been the pick of the Indian bowlers with seven wickets, though he was omitted for the Nagpur outing as Dhoni opted for a third spinner in Amit Mishra.

Thus, while bowling has been a big chink in the Indian armour, so has been the middle-order where neither Suresh Raina nor Yuvraj Singh has fired, scoring just 72 and seven, respectively from five visits to the crease.

Their failures though have not drastically impacted India's batting with the top-order batsmen - Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - in top form while Dhoni himself has marked his presence with a century.

Kohli, in particular, has been in sublime touch with scores of 61, 100 not out, 68 and 115 not out in his four outings while Dhawan and Sharma have virtually cemented their roles as openers.

The Aussie batting is not far behind with Dhoni's counterpart George Bailey whose roots can be traced to Sri Lanka, and in his debut series as the captain, enjoying a great series with knocks of 85, 92 not out, 43, 98 and 156 while the likes of openers Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes and all-rounder Shane Watson have chipped in at various times.

In the bowling department, the Aussies too have suffered as much, though Mitchell Johnson, with seven wickets in the bag, has always threatened with his pace in excess of 150kmph and bounce.

It is to be expected that both teams would give the pitch a closer look than usual, for the bowling combination could well hold the key to the outcome.

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