The third ODI was another experiment from both teams. WI and India tried their various team combinations and at the end WI came out on top thanks to a fine show by Lara. This victory underscored the value of Lara’s mere presence to the WI team. Samuels who hasn’t been in the best of form, scored a brilliant innings in the company of his captain. Lara was at his very best. He literally toyed with the Indian bowling. He mastery over spin was commendable. The late cuts, the placements and the big hits were all at display. Lara never looked in trouble and India never looked like pulling off a win except at the very end by which time it was too late.
India’s lack of bowling resources made matters worse. Harbhajan’s absence was strongly felt. Even if he didn’t take wickets his ability to curtail the runs has been a great asset to the team. After the initial mayhem, neither Kumble nor Powar were able to restrict the flow of runs. And with Tendulkar as the fifth bowler India never really resources to put up a fighting bowling performance. It is becoming increasingly clear that Sreesanth is too much of a “loose canon” to be used in ODIs. He is best saved for Test matches and simply lacks the experience to be successful in the shorter version of the game. This match was virtually lost in his first over. Agarkar on the other hand seems to be the best bet to spear head India’s bowling attack. He generates a fair amount of pace even with short seemingly less menacing run up. Most importantly, he appears to use his head while bowling unlike most of his fellow seamers.
Apart from Lara’s brilliance and Samuels fine knock, the other highlight of this match was the batting of Robin Uthappa. Once again, Uthappa showed signs that he has what it takes to open India’s innings at the higest level. The dashing start that was Viru’s trademark is no longer his alone. Uthappa showed that he is capable of similar razzle-dazzle. His performance here is hard to ignore. The fact that he is a right hander and with Ganguly having virtually sealed the other opening spot, Uthappa certainly has the edge over Gambhir for the World Cup team. To make matters worse, Gambhir blew another chance to impress.
With the series in 2-1 state, the final ODI should now be of special interest. Both teams are likely to field their best combinations. With Tendulkar struggling in the middle order, it might be time to return to the famed Ganguly–Tendulkar opening combination. Pathan is virtually certain to return for this match, while Dhoni, Zaheer and Ganguly all likely to return to the playing 11. Given the importance of this final game to winning the series, India would be inclined to bring back Harbhajan as well. This means that most likely Powar will be forced to sit this one out? Perhaps Raina will given another chance while Dhoni sits out another match? The team management is going to have a hard time deciding on the final combination.