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"We feel as though we've been building really nicely without getting results going our way so far," reckoned Australia captain Aaron Finch ahead of the three-match T20I series against India. A few days back, when Australia suffered a 21-run loss at the hands of South Africa in a curtailed encounter, it was their sixth loss in eight games - with their only two victories coming against Zimbabwe and UAE. Five of those losses came against the top-ranked T20 nation Pakistan.
Following their defeat to South Africa, Glenn Maxwell was asked about Australia's string of losses and he was quick to point out that Australia had been overpowered by a team that has set the "benchmark" as far as the T20I format is concerned. Pakistan's leap to the top of the rankings has to do with the fact that that have won their last eleven T20I series, including one-off encounters and multi-team tournaments, since September 2016.
Meanwhile, India too have risen steadily, having been undefeated in their last nine T20I series, which includes seven series victories on the trot - hence their second spot in the rankings. Some of those wins have come in the absence of key players like Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, who have been rested at different points. With a full-strength squad at their disposal, India will fancy their chances of extending their winning streak against an Australian side that's still struggling to find its feet in the aftermath of the Newlands ball-tampering fiasco.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan feature among the top five run-getters in T20Is this year, with the former having registered two three-figure scores. With the presence of KL Rahul and the returning Virat Kohli, India have an enviable top order with quality options like Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant and Krunal Pandya. For Australia, their batting fortunes will revolve around Finch, Maxwell and D'Arcy Short, who have all scored in excess of 400 runs in T20Is this year. But contributions outside these three have been lacking, which has been one of the reasons for Australia's slump.
Andrew Tye and Billy Stanlake have been the go-to bowlers for Australia in the absence of top quicks like Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. Meanwhile, India's bowling will hinge around the experienced pair of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, while the wrist spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal is also expected to do some damage.
What to expect: The Gabba wicket is expected to offer plenty of bounce, which could force both teams to bolster their attack with more pace options.
Australia went in with an all-pace attack against South Africa in the one-off game last week and might be tempted to go in with a similar set up for this match. In such a scenario, Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar are expected to warm the benches again.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), Chris Lynn, D'Arcy Short, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ben McDermott, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Andrew Tye, Jason Behrendorff, Billy Stanlake
India announced a 12-man shortlist ahead of the opening encounter, with Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar, Shreyas Iyer and Umesh Yadav being the exclusions. With Khaleel Ahmed expected to feature alongside the front-line pacers and Krunal Pandya's all-round skills providing depth, one of Chahal and Kuldeep might miss out from the eleven.
Probable XI: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed
Did you know?
- The last time India played a T20I series in Australia was in January 2016 when an MS-Dhoni led team blanked the hosts 3-0. Since then, Australia have lost series to Sri Lanka and South Africa (one-off game) at home, with their last series win at home coming in November 2014.
- Virat Kohli's 641 runs in 2016 is the record for most runs in a calendar year in T20Is. Shikhar Dhawan (572) and Rohit Sharma (560) have the chance to go past Kohli's tally in this series.
- Jasprit Bumrah needs four more wickets to become the only the second Indian after R Ashwin to reach the milestone of 50 wickets. In case he gets four or more wickets in the first game, Bumrah will become seventh fastest to the 50-wicket mark.
- Rohit Sharma needs 65 runs to go past Martin Guptill as the highest run-getter in T20Is. So far, he has scored 2207 runs in 87 matches at an average of 34.40 with four hundreds and 15 fifties. Rohit's 19 fifty-plus scores is closely followed by Kohli, who has 18 such scores.
What they said:
"You can't underestimate anyone in the Indian side. Obviously, Virat is probably the best player in the world at the moment and has been for some time in the two shorter formats in particular. There's obviously been a bit of focus around Virat, but no more than Rohit, Shikhar