Australia vs India | Sunday 31 January | Sydney Cricket Ground | 10:30
With the three-match series wrapped up with a game to spare, India will be focused on securing the whitewash against Australia when the two sides meet at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Can Virat Kohli and co make it three from three or will the returning Usman Khawaja prove pivotal for a wounded Australian side?
To Win Match
After such a dominant showing in the One Day International leg of the tour, the wheels have come off for the Australians in the shortest format of the game. A make-shift bowling attack coupled with some outstanding Indian batting – most notably from Virat kohli – has left the Aussies staring down the barrel.
As they head into the final T20, they will have to do without their big-hitting captain, Aaron Finch. The Victoria-native suffered a hamstring injury that could well threaten his place in the side for Australia’s tour of New Zealand, and in the worst case scenario, the World T20 to be held in India later this year.
His absence means that the side will be led by the comeback king, Shane Watson. Watto, as he’s affectionately known, made his way back into the national set-up after an excellent KFC Big Bash with the Sydney Thunder whom he helped win the title against the Melbourne Stars.
Another star of that Thunder team who has been called up to the Australian side is Usman Khawaja. The Pakistani-born batsman has been experiencing something of a golden summer. His performances with the bat in all formats of the game have been nothing short of sensational. In his last seven games – three Tests and four Big Bash T20s – he managed scores of : 174, 9*, 121, 109*, 144, 56, 62, 104*, 70. He could well prove to be the catalyst for Australia who will be desperate to beat the Indians come Sunday.
Australia simply haven’t bowled well enough in the series thus far. They’ve been far too expensive and offered the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli far too much width. Injuries to just about all of their first-choice quicks has meant that the likes of Shaun Tait, Kane Richardson, Scott Boland and Jon Hastings have all been called-up to the squad with minimal effect.
Even James Faulkner, who for so long has been highly regarded for his ability to keep scoring down has traveled in the series. In fact, the only Australian to perform consistently with the ball in the series has been Shane Watson. That’s simply not good enough – especially for an Australian side playing at home. Another fun fact: Australia last won a T20 International back in November 2014.
The Indians have bounced back beautifully after a disappointing 4-1 defeat in the One Day International leg of their tour. The management showed faith in the XI that got the job done in the first T20 and were duly rewarded with their faith after the side wrapped up the series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday.
Virat Kohli has been in sensational form in the T20 leg of the series. Scores of 90 and 59 have helped his side claim victory in both matches against the odds. Those two scores have also pushed his T20 International average up an incredible 50.65. That means he now averages more in the shortest format of the game than some of the best players in the world average in Tests.
He’s been quick to latch onto anything that’s wide of the off stump and has used his wrists beautifully to work the ball away on the leg side. You can bet your bottom Dollar that if he fires again in the third and final T20, India will be in a strong position to claim the series whitewash.
Another one to watch for the Indians is Jasprit Bumrah. His stiff-armed coupled with the fact that he bowls from side-on during his delivery stride is peculiar to watch, however, it has proven effective thus far. He leads the wicket-taking stakes in the series, having claimed five scalps at an average of 12.00. If he continues to perform, India may well have found a seamer capable of breaking into their World T20 squad.
The Indians have also employed both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with great effect during this series. Both have been magnificent with the ball, strangling the Australian batsmen while the seamers have struck at the other end. One feels that if they can continue to starve the hosts of runs, the men in blue could well make it three from three.
India have persisted with the same XI for both of the previous T20s and I see no reason why they should tinker with a winning team so close to the World T20. Expect the side to remain unchanged heading into Sydney.
Verdict: Usman Khawaja Top Batsman Australia at 5/2
India have simply looked too hot to handle for the Australians on the T20 leg of this tour. They appear to have been sparked into action by 4-1 loss in the ODI segment of the tour and they look good value to beat the Aussies at even money. That said, I’ll be backing Khawaja to top score for the Australians at 5/2. He’s in the form of his life at the moment and with the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Aaron Finch unavailable for selection, he offers magnificent value at 5/2.