Australia's Tour of India 2023 is at a unique juncture. With the two rivals meeting for their fourth T20I in Raipur, the series is as finely poised as possible; a win for India will give them the overall tournament victory while one for Australia will stretch the five-game contest into its fifth and deciding match. (Match Blog | Streaming | Scorecard | Full Coverage)
A Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma-less India has gone toe-to-toe with Australia in the three T20Is so far, scoring more than 200 runs on each occasion. Under the stewardship of stand-in captain Suryakumar Yadav, the Men in Blue have been explosive in the approach, whether that is while setting the target or chasing it down.
India beat Australia by two wickets in Visakhapatnam, led by their skipper Suryakumar's 80 crucial runs. Game two witnessed Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ishan Kishan, and Ruturaj Gaikwad all reach their half-centuries as India stacked up an insurmoutable 236-run target in front of their opponents. The Men in Blue looked destined to win the third match, too, courtesy of Gaikwad's unbeaten 123, but threw away the game on the final ball.
Two-one to the good, India take on Australia in the fourth T20I at Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in Raipur. Here are three key battles that could decide the outcome of the game.
Suryakumar Yadav vs Jason Behrendorff
Suryakumar's captaincy stint may have been in its nascent stage yet, but his display with the bat and the tactics board has impressed the Indian selectors so much that the batter is now tasked with leading Team India during their Tour of South Africa in T20Is. Surya has shown both explosiveness and tact during the ongoing India vs Australia T20Is; he hit 80 off 42 in the first match, leading the team to a victory from the front, before following it with two sensible, yet docile outings. The stand-in Indian skipper is likely to come across Australia's pacer jason Behrendorff in Raipur, with the Aussie bowler an obvious standout from his team so far. Behrendorff has been effective and economical, evidenced by his superb displays in Visakhapatnam and Guwahati that yielded two wickets and 37 runs combined!
Marcus Stoinis vs Ravi Bishnoi
Ravi Bishnoi has been the pick of the bowlers India has nominated for their serie against Australia. The spinner did prove coslty in Visakhapatnam, giving away 54 runs for just one wicket, but has since upped his game; he claimed three wickets for 32 runs in his second outing and two for 32 in his third. Bishnoi has been key to India breaking down Australia's middle order; on Friday, the spinner is likely to come up against Australia's power-hitter in the middle, Marcus Stoinis, with their battle a potential pace-setter for the match. Stoinis has been far from his explosive best during the series, but he did show a glimpse of his talent with a 25-ball 45 in the second T20I.
Ruturaj Gaikwad vs Tanveer Sangha
Ruturaj Gaikwad was the name ringing on the lips of every Indian cricket fan after the batter's sensational 123* in 57 balls in Guwahati. The Chennai Super Kings star started slow but picked up the pace eventually, racing to his maiden T20I ton and becoming the first Indian to score a century in this format against Australia. Before that, Gaikwad had been India's highest-scorer in the 2nd T20I in Thiruvananthapuram with a mature 58 off 43 balls. In Raipur, Gaikwad could come face-to-face with the young spinner Tanveer Sangha. Sangha showed his prowess by picking up two wickets in the first T20I but has failed to claim a scalp since. He will be hoping to correct that statistic before long, though, and bamboozling Gaikwad could provide the basis to do the same.