It was against the same opposition that Australia’s resurgence in ODI Cricket began when they toured India earlier this year. Until that series, played in Feb-March in India, Australia had a dismissal run in the ODIs and they somehow seemed to have lost the knack of winning the crucial moments of the match. Even in that series, Australia were 2-0 down and things were looking dismal for the Kangaroos ahead of the World Cup.
Till the third match of the series, Australia had won only eight of their last 33 matches. Their skipper, Aaron Finch was clearly struggling with the bat and was amidst one of the worst phases in his career. But since that match in MS Dhoni’s home ground Ranchi everything changed for Australia.
Finch averages over 70 since then while Australia has won each of their last 10 matches – their last two coming in the World Cup. Like every World Cup ever, Australia has somehow managed to come into this tournament with momentum and confidence. And if there is one team which proudly belongs to the World Cup stage it is undoubtedly Australia, having won 5 out of the 11 World Cups held so far.
The narrative was pretty simple before Australia got into the groove – India and England will be the teams to beat in this showpiece event. But Aussies played while others around them talked.
And as Australians walk the familiar territory – the World Cup – the fear factor against them is back which was evidently on display against West Indies in which the Caribbean side were knocked out under pressure, in what could have been an easy win for the West Indies.
However, their opponent on Sunday will not be afraid of them. India is a different team altogether than the two teams Australia has defeated in the tournament so far (Afghanistan and West Indies).
Neither will Indian batsmen get out slogging nor will their bowlers breathe easy after a good start. India will give Aussies a lot to worry about. Jasprit Bumrah is a man on a mission and lets his performance do the talking. Rohit has been in good form and then there is Virat Kohli, arguably the best modern batsmen in World Cricket.
If that’s not it, India have Shikhar Dhawan, who can change a match in a matter of few overs. And even if the Kangaroos get past the Top 3, a formidable middle order composed of the likes of KL Rahul, MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav awaits the Aussie bowlers.
For Australia – other than David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steven Smith and their all rounders – Usman Khawaja had been in phenomenal form leading up to the World Cup but hasn’t yet transformed that form into runs in the tournament so far and Australia would hope that Sunday is the day when he announces himself on the World Cup stage.
For India, Hardik Pandya will be another Player to watch out for and would be interesting to see the role he is assigned in the Playing XI.
It would be interesting to see if Mohammad Shami gets a place in the Playing XI, given Australia’s trouble with the bouncing ball.
The World Cup 2019 has been full of some action-packed and intriguing contests so far but not two heavyweights fight it out in the middle. Sunday’s clash promises just that.
The match is scheduled to begin from 3 pm (IST) onwards live from The Oval, London.
Where to view: Exclusive broadcast in India on Star Sports Network and Hotstar, in the UK on Sky Sports.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Jason Behrendorff, Kane Richardson.