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A Super Rivalry on Super Sunday

“The wait (for India’s CWC opener) was very long and then you get a game like this where it was challenging throughout.”

Indian skipper Virat Kohli was au fait with the challenges that were thrown his team’s way in their first game against South Africa on Wednesday. While the Men in Blue – owing to a resilient Rohit Sharma century – came through, the next opponent will be harder to get past.

Imagine a team whose ODI record in the past ten One Day Internationals is unblemished; a team that can brag of having won the ICC Cricket World Cup five times. In Australia, India will find a testing opponent on 9th June at the Kennington Oval, London.

India versus Australia, the fixture that, as history suggests, fills the world of cricket with anticipation and seldom disappoints. To add to that, the purple patch the two teams are in promises to make the game on Sunday worthwhile.

The Oval track has been kind to pacers, providing them with ample bounce to trouble the batsmen. The game on Wednesday between Bangladesh and New Zealand saw pacers enjoy some good bounce the track had to offer, resulting in a major portion of the wickets for them. Bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell Starc will surely be keen to make the best of this Oval pitch.

Team Form:

On paper, both India and Australia have enviable squads. A prolific batting order that goes deep, lethal pacers and quality spin options make the two sides akin to each other.

The Men in Blue got off the mark at the World Cup in fine style. While Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli did not deliver, the Hitman rose to the occasion. The Australians will certainly have to be wary of this Indian batting unit. Glimpses of Hardik Pandya finishing the game against South Africa will also generate more confidence in the Indian dressing room.

On the bowling front, Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal were impressive on their CWC debuts. Keeping the pitch and conditions in mind, a possible change that the Indians could make is bringing in Mohammed Shami in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Shami, coming from a good IPL season, could be seen as a viable option at The Oval.

The Aussies will look at the likes of captain Aaron Finch, David Warner and Steve Smith to deliver. With Smith and a surprise package, Nathan Coulter-Nile, scoring for them in the Windies game, they proved that theirs is a side that knows how to get the job done. With a fiery fast bowling attack comprising of Starc, Coulter-Nile and Patt Cummins, Australia will look to put a dent on the Indian batting early in the innings.

Key Battle:

Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc

This is a clash between two players who are clearly on the top of their game, a battle between a batsman who has scored his 23rd ODI century in the previous game and a bowler who comes on the back of his sixth five-wicket haul in 50-over cricket. The impact players that these two are, the winner of this battle could define the course of the match.

With both teams intent on handing the other its first setback at the CWC 19, and the CWC rivalry that India and Australia have, this will be a fixture to devour. The match will start at 3 PM IST on 9th June, Sunday.