India's highly-rated batsmen come up against a fearsome Australian pace attack in a World Cup quarterfinal Thursday that is worthy of a championship decider.
India started the tournament as the favorite due to the homeground advantage and pressure of batsman such as Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the lineup, but that has changed a little with some dramatic collapses in crunch games.
Defending champion Australia tasted its first defeat since the 1999 World Cup group stage when it went down by four wickets to Pakistan on Saturday.
The pace trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson is sure to test the Indian batsmen, who need to fire to cover perceived weaknesses in the bowling and fielding departments.
Tendulkar and Sehwag have previously held the key to India's fortunes, their dominant performances as openers setting a platform for a middle-order that has failed to dominate as expected and been prone to collapses.
Sehwag has been the top run-scorer for India despite missing the last match against the West Indies due to an infection in the knee. He is expected to be fit to play Australia.
The hard-hitting opener has totaled 327 runs with a high score of 175 against Bangladesh in the tournament opener. Interestingly, Sehwag has hit a four off the first ball of each of his five innings so far.
Tendulkar, whose two centuries in this tournament to move to 99 career hundreds, has scored 326 runs and also has a very good record against top-ranked Australia.
Yuvraj Singh has been the third most prolific for India with 284 runs, stabilizing a middle-order that has generally failed to shine, especially during batting powerplays.
Yuvraj has also done with the ball to win three man-of-the-match awards, and is confident India can avenge its 125-run loss to Australia in the 2003 World Cup final.
"Australia does not have several big names like (Glenn) McGrath, (Adam) Gilchrist, (Shane) Warne and (Matthew) Hayden, so we have a good chance of beating them," he said after India's 80-run victory over the West Indies.
If India is hopeful of bettering its record against Australia in the World Cup, which stands at two wins and seven losses, Australia seems to have worked out its plans already.
"I would believe our bowlers would like be aggressive and rattle the Indian batsmen," batsman Mike Hussey said on Tuesday. "I suppose we could bowl short ones at them and have them on the hop."
The Indian batsmen are known not to enjoy the short stuff but it may not be so easy to worry them on the pitch here.
"The pitch might be slow and probably help spin bowling, so we might have to change plans accordingly," conceded Hussey.
For Australia, Brett Lee is the leading wicket-taker with 12 dismissals, while Tait and Johnson have nine each.
The Zaheer Khan-led Indian pace attack looks relatively weaker and will have to contend with a top-order containing Australia's leading run-scorers in Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke.
The last time India beat Australia at the World Cup was in 1987.