Australia v India
Saturday 12 January 02.20
TV: Live on BT Sport
Australia switch batting strategy
Australia have had a major reshuffle as they try to find some batters ahead of the defence of their World Cup. Out have gone Chris Lynn, Travis Head and D'Arcy Short. In come Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Mitchell Marsh.
It should not be missed that blood-thirsty hitters have been axed for more circumspect strikers. Instead of trying to bust the leather, Khawaja, Handscomb and Marsh will be looking to turn ones into twos and so on. Marsh, however, is a major doubt for game one with illness so Perth's Ashton Turner has been called up.
Australia have to do something. They have won two of their last 14 ODIs. They have lost their last six series. And just as their batters struggle in Tests, they do so in ODI. Australia have passed the magical 300 barrier five times in the last two years, which puts them way behind England (13) and India (10). They are joint-fifth on that ranking alongside Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Still, it is surprising that they have rested their trio of pace bowlers who do stand up to scrutiny. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are a force. Instead Peter Siddle, who will at least be economical, Bily Stanlake and Perth pair Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff will compete for three spots.
India are the No 2-rated team in the world by the ICC but they are far from fallible. They contrived to tie matches against West Indies and Afghanistan in September and October and even lost to the former in Pune. Still, they have only two series defeats out of 11 in the last two years and one of those was to England, the best team in the world.
They are not at full-strength, however. Jasprit Bumrah has been rested after his exertions in the historic Test series win, a result which punters will hope inspires India to do the double rather than rest on their laurels.
The batting relies on a powerful front three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. Ambati Rayudu bats at No 4 followed by MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadav and Hardik Pandya. The middle-order is not particularly fearsome.
Bhuv Kumar and Mohammad Shami are wily pacers while the real test for Australia will probably be provided by spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuz Chahal.
More than 300 on cards
Here are the last 14 first-innings scores at the SCG (most recent first): 302-353-324-330-328-133-376-408-234-280-243-220-222-252. So 300 really should be busted again. England defended that 302 this time last year with Australia managing 286 in reply.
Game over if tourists chase
Australia are 2.427/5 and India 1.705/7. India just about squeeze into bet territory at that price and with no outside factors like toss bias (it's a fifty-fifty split in recent years) or weather then there could be some folks preparing to go big on the tourists.
We wouldn't put anyone off maximum bet territory if India were to win the toss and chase. In the last two years they have won 22 from 29 with one tie. Nerveless.
Given those numbers it seems a little churlish to worry about everyone bar their front three. India really should prove that there is a chasm between the two teams in this three-match series. If there were prices available about a whitewash they would be popular.
Mind you, we said that about the T20 series before the Test between the two. India failed to win that despite everything suggesting it was a mismatch.
Stoinis worth a gamble
Alex Carey is expected to open the batting with Aaron Finch but the 10/3 (Betfair Sportsbook) that he top scores for the hosts doesn't feel like value. Finch is 11/4 jolly. The latter is fair enough considering his position at the top of Australia's run charts in the last two years. Head is third, by the way, which suggests he should be playing. Next best is Marcus Stoinis and there could be takers of the 11/1. Certainly he's better value than Glenn Maxwell who is slated for No 7 and is 9s.
Kohli reigns supreme for India in the runs list in the last two years. He has more than 340 runs than Sharma and 800 more than Dhawan. Both Kohli and Dhawan have played a game fewer. Kohli is 5/2 (Betfair Sportsbook) for top India bat with Sharma 11/4 and Dhawan 7/2.