Saturday, October 26, 2013
Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)
The cricketing gods seem to have had enough of batsmen ravaging helpless bowlers, and have called up a friend. The weather gods have swooped in, washed out the Ranchi ODI – 312 in 54.1 overs before their intervention – and now pose an even bigger threat to the game in Cuttack.
The organisers already sound resigned. An Odisha Cricket Association release said: “We deeply regret to mention that the sunny weather that we have been expecting has failed to come true. The ground is completely water-logged and the chances of its drying up are extremely remote.”
It has rained in Cuttack for five continuous days in the lead-up to the match, and the forecast for Saturday is similar. More than two balls and new field restrictions, the words that have been uttered regularly in Cuttack has been: helicopters – to dry the ground should it stop raining; wells – being dug up around the ground to help drain the ground; and of course Duckworth-Lewis.
The helicopter, too, didn’t prove effective. “The operators of the helicopters visited the ground and expressed that they could dry the pitch but were unable to remove the mud that has accumulated through the playing area.”
Ravindra Jadeja – although he added his side was prepared to play whatever the duration of the match presented to them – was candid enough to say in his press conference, “It doesn’t look like there will be a match tomorrow.” Shane Watson was less optimistic about the game, and already seemed to be thankful the rain might have cut short the series significantly. “A five-match series is a bit more enjoyable anyway,” Watson said. “The rain has sort of made it that way.”
For the Cuttack groundstaff and locals, this isn’t a matter of relief. They badly want the game to happen. The challenge for the groundstaff begins once it stops raining for a considerable period of time, signs of which have been scarce ever since Cyclone Phailin crossed Odisha earlier this month. The outfield isn’t quite submerged like the Indian roads in rain, but it gives the impression you will sink ankle deep once you step on it. The water level in the drain outside the stadium is pretty high too, which is why the wells are being dug.
If the game indeed is abandoned India will be left with a more difficult task in the series. Down 1-2 after four games, they will need to win the remaining two matches to win the series.
Australia WLWWL (most recent games first, completed matches)
In the spotlight
Ravindra Jadeja loves the Barabati Stadium. One of his fabled three first-class triples came here, he took four wickets in an ODI against Sri Lanka here, and is quick to remind that he even scored a quick fifty in an Deodhar Trophy match in Cuttack. Even in this series so far, Jadeja has bowled all his 40 overs at 4.85 an over, by some distance the best economy-rate among the specialist bowlers in this high-scoring series. And he says he doesn’t even care if you use one ball or two balls; if there is turn in the pitch, he will extract it.
Before the start of this series, we knew George Bailey as the nice Tassie bloke with a Paul Collingwood-like game who could fight it out and make crucial if not big contributions in tough conditions, but we didn’t expect him to be anywhere near the highest run-getter in a series played on flat pitches surrounded by quick outfields in India. After four matches, Bailey stands at the top, with more runs at a higher average and a higher strike-rate than even Virat Kohli. The lack of centuries, though, will irk the Australia captain, who could be getting close to an Ashes ticket with his performances.
The changes in the bowling combination seemed to work at the start of the Ranchi ODI. Mohammed Shami took the wickets, Jaydev Unadkat was tight, ad for the first time in the series India kept Australia to under 300. The two quicks could retain their places, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar possibly replacing the profligate R Vinay Kumar.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/ R Vinay Kumar, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Mohammed Shami
Australia have played the same XI in the first four games, and are likely to do so again.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Shane Watson, 4 George Bailey (capt.), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty
Stats and trivia
The last – and the only – time India and Australia decided to play in Cuttack, rain joined in, and the captains couldn’t even come out for the toss.
If he scores another 196 runs in his next three innings, Virat Kohli will be the fastest man to 5,000 ODI runs. He has played 111 innings so far; Viv Richards reached 5,000 in his 114th innings.
“We are 2-1 behind, so we want to win a match whenever we get an opportunity. It’s a home series, so obviously everyone wants the match to happen and for us to do well.”
“Doesn’t look good at the moment. That’s for sure. We will be very surprised if we get on tomorrow after seeing how wet the grounds were even when coming from the airport to this hotel.”