Rain threat looms large as India look to continue momentum against Australia
Kolkata: Their tails up after overcoming initial jolts to pull off an emphatic victory in the series opener against Australia, India would look to retain the momentum in the second One-Day International on Thursday despite the leaden eyed skies threatening to play spoilsport here at the Eden Gardens.
India were down in the dumps at 87/5 in Chennai, before young all-rounder Hardik Pandya (83) and seasoned campaigner MS Dhoni (79) upturned the script with an 118-run six wicket stand that helped the hosts post a challenging total, which the Kangaroos could not match up to in a rain-truncated chase.
The tourists, according to their former skipper Michael Clarke, have to win the second rubber in order to have any chance of taking the series. In order to do that, Smith's wards will need to improve on their death bowling which looked rather flat in Chennai conceding 83 runs in the last 10 overs.
But at this moment, all eyes are focussed heavenwards, with the Met office predicting thundershowers on the morrow. Another shortened cricketing contest is also within the realms of possibility, as the city has been lashed by spells of heavy showers over the past few days.
"We need at least two hours of sunshine to get the ground ready. We are well-equipped, we are keeping our fingers crossed," East Zone curator Ashish Bhowmick had said two days before the game.
If the track, mostly kept under covers because of the inclement weather, does not get sufficient light before the game, the wicket would be damp and could assist fast bowlers initially.
This could augur well for the visitors who have in their ranks Nathan Coulter-Nile, who bowled really well the other day, returning best innings figures of 3/44 which included the prize wicket of Virat Kohli who departed without troubling the scorers.
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Eden Gardens is a familiar turf for Coulter-Nile, as he plays for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and exhibited exemplary form this season for the purple brigade.
Also under spotlight will be India's wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav (2/33) and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (3/30) shared five wickets between themselves in Chennai. The pair, first of their kind to bowl in tandem in an ODI for India - that's across 43 years and 923 matches - have caused their rivals quite a few problems and would be expected to play an important role here as well.
In team news, the Aussies are likely too again miss the services of opener Aaron Finch who injured his calf muscle during training in Chennai.
Hilton Cartwright, who made his debut in the first ODI, is expected to keep his place with Travis Head batting at number 4.
The hosts might give Ajinkya Rahane another chance to open the batting alongwith Rohit Sharma. Rahane failed in the first game managing just five runs from 15 deliveries.
At number 4, K.L. Rahul could stake a claim after Manish Pandey failed to impress in the last tie scoring a duck.
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Rohit and Eden have a special relationship and the last time India won at the venue, Rohit shattered the ODI record books in 2014. The Mumbai batsman hammered a world record 264 against Sri Lanka and India went on to win by 153 runs.
Australia have a 100 per cent record, and fond memories at Eden. It was at the iconic ground that thery lifted their their maiden World cup, thirty years back in 1987. Back then, Alan Border's side had beaten England by seven runs in the final.
The tourists' turned out in their only other ODI game at the Eden in 2003, opposite India. Australia won by 37 runs.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Adam Zampa.