After Whitewashing Sri Lanka in a five-match ODI series last month, India will be taking on Steven Smith's Australia for another similar number of day-night games at home, with the first match starting at Chennai's Chepauk Stadium on Sunday. Excitement is at its peak as fans anticipate a stiff contest between the old rivals.
Having won the previous three out of the four ODI series at subcontinent, along with their familiarity on the slow, low Indian pitches, Aussies would be hoping to give some tough times to Kohli and Co. India, on the other hand, would be looking to experiment more with their playing combinations, keeping the crucial the World Cup 2019 in mind.
Also, India has another incentive: to beat the visitors by 4-1 or better than that and earn the top spot in ICC ODI Rankings, replacing South Africa.
The India-Australia rivalry has always thrown up some entertaining encounters, both with regard to skill and verbal exchanges. So, with only a few hours to go before the game begins, here's a look at some of the best nailbiters between the two teams in the past.
When a solitary run separated both the rivals at Brisbane: The 1992 Benson and Hedges World Cup revolutionalised one-day cricket with coloured jerseys, white cricket balls, black sightscreens and day-night matches. For India, it was a tournament to forget with only two wins (including one against the tournament champion Pakistan) out of eight games in the round-robin stage. Their poor performances included close defeats against England (by nine runs) and Australia (by one run).
On March 1, the Mohammad Azharuddin-led Indian side met Allan Border's Australia in Brisbane. Batting first, the home team, riding on Dean Jones' 108-ball 90 and David Boon's 60-ball 43, reached 237-9 in 50 overs. For India, both Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar returned with identical figures of 41-3. Chasing a D/L par score of 236 runs in 47 overs, India got to a disastrous start when Aussie pacer Craig McDermott removed opener Krishnamachari Srikanth for a duck.
Although skipper Azharuddin tried to steady the ship by scoring a grounded 102-ball 93, India suffered regular setbacks in the form of Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Ajay Jadeja and wicketkeeper-batsman Kiran More, while Ravi Shastri didn't help the cause either by playing a slow 67-ball 25. Towards the end, the hope of a rare victory against Aussies down under again rekindled for Azhar and Co., as Sanjay Manjrekar played a brisk 42-ball 47, but it all ended in a one-run heartbreak, as India collapsed from 231-8 to 234-10 in the final over.
When Sachin's hundred gave India a rare win: In the Coca-Cola cup tri-nation series at 1997/98 in Sharjah, the Steve Waugh-led Aussies won all of their group games against India and New Zealand to qualify for the final. India won only one match in the group stages, that too a narrow 15-run one against the Kiwis. It all came down to the sixth ODI, where India had to claim a much-needed win for a spot in the final. Batting first Australia posted 284-7, guided by Mark Waugh's 99-ball 81 and Michael Bevan's 103-ball 101. While chasing, India faced a dual target, first of reaching the 254-run mark to qualify for finals, apart from going after the Aussie total.The Indian innings saw a 25-minute sandstorm, following which the target got reduced to 276 in 46 overs, as per D/L method. Also, India then had to chase a secondary target of 237 in 46 overs to secure its final spot. India ended at 250-5, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar's 131-ball 143.
In the final, which took place on 24th April 1998, Australia were sent to bat first.The fifties from Steve Waugh and Darren Lehmann gave India a stiff target of 273 runs. Chasing the total, India lost Ganguly in the eighth over. But it didn't deter Tendulkar, who backed up his previous hundred with another blistering 131-ball 134, with twelve boundaries and three sixes. He was ably assisted by skipper Azharuddin, who scored a fluent 64-ball 58. When Tendulkar was dismissed by pacer Michael Kasprowicz, India only needed 25 runs to win in last six overs, which they scored with more than an over to spare. Master Blaster became the man-of-the-match again, but this time on a winning cause. It was a birthday to remember for the batting maestro, as his knock, apart from ensuring a series win for India, also decimated his nemesis Shane Warne, who returned with a miserable figure of 61-0 in his 10-over spell.
Another close defeat against Aussies at their backyard, after 12 years: In 2003, the Aussies maintained a 2-0 'Final' record against Sourav Ganguly's Team India. They first thrashed the Indians by 125 runs at ICC World Cup final in South Africa's Johannesburg and then secured a 37-run victory against the same opposition in the TVS Cup final in Kolkata later in that year.
India toured down under in November that year for a four-Test match-series, along with a tri-nation ODI series including Zimbabwe. The fiercely fought Test series was drawn at 1-1, with Ganguly's men retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The ODI tournament started with Aussies beating Indians for 18 runs in the opening game and then suffering a close 19-run defeat in the third game. With a 1-1 deadlock, both the teams arrived at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the seventh ODI on 22nd January 2004. Batting first, India put up a respectable 296/4, guided by Yuvraj Singh's 139 and VVS Laxman's 106*. A brief spell of rain between the two innings gave Ponting and Co. a challenging total of 225 in 34 overs. Opener Adam Gilchrist gave a solid start, as his 72-ball 95 helped the home side to cross 150-run mark by the 21st over. Needing 75 runs in the last thirteen overs, Aussies suddenly slumped to 202-7 in the 32nd over, as Irfan Pathan and skipper Ganguly shared six wickets between them. Cruising at 150-1 at the end of 21 overs. With 23 needed in last three overs, Brett Lee played a handy nine-ball-12, including a six, to ensure a two-wicket win for Aussies, with one ball to spare.
When Sachin's record ton again ended in a losing cause: After winning the Champions Trophy for the second consecutive time in 2009, the Ricky Ponting-led Aussies toured India for a seven-match ODI series, which took place from October end to November mid-week.
In the fifth ODI at Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Australia batted first and put a mammoth 350/4, powered by Shane Watson's 93 and Shaun Marsh's 112, backed up by a brisk 33-ball 57 from Cameron White at number four. The Indian bowlers went all around the park, with seamers Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra ending up with economy rates more than six. Chasing the target of 351, India started briskly, as the opening duo of Sachin-Sehwag piled up 66 runs in nine overs. However, India suddenly slowed down to 162-4 in 23 overs, with Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Dhoni all gone.
Sachin, after completing the feat of becoming the first batsman to score 17,000 ODI runs, went on to the fifth gear along with Suresh Raina. When Raina departed for 59, India were 299-5 at the 42nd over, needing 52 runs in last eight overs. Tendulkar finally got out after a massive 175-run knock in 141 deliveries, with 19 fours and four sixes. Despite his dismissal, India were looking comfortable at 332-7, with 19 runs to win in last three overs. But Aussies clinched the unlikely victory as they picked up the remaining three wickets within 15 runs. This match was a reminder of India in the 1990s, where Tendulkar's dismissal would often result in India crumbling like cookies.
When Dhoni and Co. took the sweet revenge for the 2003 World Cup loss: The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Team India started the 2011 World Cup in familiar subcontinent conditions by beating Bangladesh for 87 runs in the tournament opener. However, after surviving a high-scoring tie against England, along with two tense victories against Ireland and Netherlands, they suffered a three-wicket loss against the Proteas at Nagpur. The 80-run win against West Indies in the last group game in Chennai brought India's campaign back on track again.
In their quarter-final against Aussies in Ahmedabad's Motera stadium, India got the perfect opportunity to avenge their 125-run loss during 2003 final. Batting first, Australia put a challenging 261-run target for Dhoni's men, guided by skipper Ponting's 104. India started their chase on a difficult note, losing the opening duo of Sachin-Sehwag under the 100-run mark. Although Gautam Gambhir tried to stabilise the ship with a 64-ball 50, his, along with Virat Kohli's and MS Dhoni's dismissals landed the home side in a spot of bother, as they were at 187-5 in the 38th over, with 74 runs needed in the last 12 overs. It was the 74-run sixth-wicket partnership between Yuvraj Singh (57*) and Suresh Raina (34*), which knocked the Aussies out of the tournament.
When James Faulkner almost negated Rohit Sharma's maiden ODI double: In 2013, Australia toured India for a seven-match bilateral series, along with a solitary T20 during October-November. It was their fourth ODI assignment in the subcontinent in the past six years, out of which they won three. The Series, having been tied at 2-2 after the first six matches, already proved to be a cracker, with India chasing down 350-plus targets twice.
The decider, played on 2nd November in Bengaluru, a day before Diwali, saw Aussie skipper George Bailey opting to bowl first. India took off well, reaching at 118-1 at the 19th over. However, Shikhar Dhawan's dismissal on 60 runs, followed by that of Virat Kohli on a duck brought the visitors back into the game, as Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh could offer little resistance, leaving India at 207-4 in the 34th over. Rohit Sharma eventually took it over, as he smashed his first ODI double hundred, assisted by skipper Dhoni's 38-ball 62. The home side plundered 176 runs in the last sixteen overs. When Rohit got dismissed at the 50th over, his 158-ball 209 run knock saw a whopping 16 sixes. Bailey used seven bowlers, with five of them going over economy rates in seven overs.
Australia's chase started in a disastrous manner. Except Glenn Maxwell's 22-ball 60 and Shane Watson's 22-ball 49, no other recognised batsmen were able to challenge the Indian bowling. With a score of 211-8 around after 30 overs, all-rounder James Faulkner took the attack again to the Indian camp by scoring a 73-ball 116. With a score of 326-8 around the 44th over, the visitors were hoping for a historic win. But India got the next two wickets within seven deliveries and sealed the series 3-2.
Manish Pandey's heroics at Sydney to save India from a series whitewash: In 2016, India toured Australia for a short series of five ODIs and three T20s. The series saw another run-fest from both the sides, with Rohit Sharma leading the chart with 441 runs in five games, followed by Virat Kohli (381 runs in five matches) and Aussie skipper Steven Smith (315 runs in five games). Another startling point was the way the visiting bowling line-up failed to defend targets of more than 270 runs in first three games.
Staring down at 0-4, the MS Dhoni-led side met the Aussies on January 23rd at Sydney Cricket Ground. Batting first, Australia put up a massive 330-7, with David Warner's 113-ball 122 tearing the visitors apart. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh supported Warner well, by scoring a quickfire 84-ball 102. For Indians, debutant Jasprit Bumrah was the most successful, with a return of 40-2 in ten overs. On the other hand, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Rishi Dhawan conceded 216 runs in 28 overs. India started the chase blazing guns, with Shikhar Dhawan maintaining his good form and scoring a 56-ball 78. But after his and Virat Kohli's departure, India landed in a tricky situation of 134-2.
Considering the visitors' horror show at Canberra, where they slid from a confident 277-1 to 323-10, while chasing 349, Rohit Sharma anchored one end with a patient 108-ball 99. But it was the 81-ball 104 knock of Karnataka youngster Manish Pandey that gave India the momentum in the last 15 overs, as they scored 100 runs to clinch the historic victory. The six-wicket win also boosted the morale of Dhoni and Co. tremendously, as they whitewashed Aussies in the following three-match T20 series. India not only ended Australia's 18-match winning streak at home but also became the first side to win an ODI game down under, while chasing more than 300.