Hosts India lead the five-match series 2-0 after hard-fought wins in Vizag and Nagpur. They will be looking to seal the deal with another victory at Ranchi.
With the series on the line for both teams, we take a look at the key talking points heading into the decisive clash:
SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL BOY DHONI
The limelight at Ranchi on Friday will be firmly on their favourite son MS Dhoni. It could be the last time the veteran wicketkeeper turns out for India in front of his home crowd at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) stadium complex.
The upcoming ICC World Cup in England is expected to be Dhoni’s international swansong and it would be surprising to see anything less than a packed house at Ranchi on Friday.
A pavilion in the ground has already been named after Dhoni and the former India skipper will be determined to sign off on a high in the third ODI. The 37-year-old has been in excellent form with the bat of late and could send the Ranchi crowd into delirium if he gets going on Friday.
AUSTRALIA AIM TO AVERT SIXTH SERIES LOSS ON THE BOUNCE
It has not been the rosiest of periods in the ODI format for Australia with Justin Langer and his men still reeling from the absence of the suspended Steve Smith and David Warner.
The Aussies have been on a horrendous run in the 50-over format and another defeat on Friday will seal their sixth-successive series loss on the bounce. The five-time world champions last won a bilateral ODI series all the way back in January, 2017 when they beat Pakistan 4-1 at home.
Since then, Australia have tasted series defeats against New Zealand, England (twice), South Africa and India along with a humiliating early exit in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
It is safe to say that it is currently a dark period in Australian cricket and the pressure on Aaron Finch and his men to avert another disappointing defeat will be immense come Friday.
ROHIT AND DHAWAN IN THE FIRING LINE
While India have worked out to eek out two close wins, it has not gone all swimmingly so far for the hosts. The team has one of the most formidable opening pairing in international cricket but, so far, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have failed to fire in the two matches.
In the first ODI, Dhawan was dismissed for a golden duck while Rohit Sharma managed to get a start (37) before falling to Nathan Coulter-Nile. In the second clash at Nagpur, it was Rohit who fell for a duck while Dhawan scratched his way to 21 before falling to Glenn Maxwell’s part-time spin.
The failure of the openers has seen India’s vulnerable middle-order come under increasing pressure in the two ODIs so far and Kohli will want them to stand up to the task at Ranchi.
The two batsmen have been exceptional with their consistency over the past couple of years and they will be itching to get themselves back in form as soon as possible.
BHUVNESHWAR SET TO RETURN
Having been rested in the previous two ODIs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar could be set to make his return to the India XI on Friday. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been the designated pacers in the two clashes so far, but the latter was expensive at Nagpur and looks set to make way for Bhuvneshwar.
Bhuvneshwar was hard at work in the nets on Thursday with the India seamer having an extended session with both bat and ball. With a chance to clinch the series, Kohli will definitely want to bring out the big guns like Bhuvneshwar.
The India skipper would ideally like to seal to the series win on Friday itself so that he can use the remaining two matches to experiment with different combinations in anticipation of the ICC World Cup.
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