When India last played a test series in Australia and recorded a historic victory, an inevitable warning was added – Australia was without its key players Steven Smith and David Warner, and a team with a new captain and shaky lineups.
Without Virat Kohli in the middle, an unresolved starting pair and a captain with some of his existential issues, India is now comparable to that Australian team on their next tour.
One is that India knew of Kohli’s exit and planned it, and the other is that it followed a historical minimum. It didn’t take much for Ajinky Rahane’s smooth handover: a closer bidding in Adelaide, a game that lasted deeper than two and a half nights, might have done so, even if India had lost. A few adjustments in the order of impact, a little lubrication of the machine, and there would still be enough time to achieve a serial result.
Still, here’s Rahane – the last match of the year that has been relentless in many other ways – the task of trying to keep the series alive with the ghosts of 36 all and without one half of the fast bowling duo to anchor this tour, which would potentially have to try to close the gaps with several debutants.
In another camp, Tim Paine is a much more relaxed man, and Australia is a much different team. Warner is still missing, and he is far from a solid hitting line. But they held on, in a two-run match by Steven Smith, long enough for their bowling attack to work on his spell. Both openers found races until the end of the last match, the debut of the prodigy looked like it belonged to him, and they also know that the softened Indian team cannot win the series if it becomes 2-0 in Melbourne. You won’t catch them worrying about warnings.
Last five completed matches, most recent first
In the spotlight
Steven Smith is always in the spotlight against India. Prior to the first test, he had fifty or more points of each alternative change on average against India. After a score of 1 and 1 *, he still averages 79.5. Australia will be itching for Smith to be in the middle with a decent score on the board, on falling ground, against a lineup with a few scars. There is only one way this tour can get worse for India, and that is if Smith finds his hands again.
He may be the most skilled bowler in the Indian lineup, but Jasprit Bumrah he had never been a single senior speed bowler before. Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami have both been present throughout Bumrah’s test career so far, sharing responsibilities in a strong bowling attack. Umesh Yadav is an experienced but not a regular member, and is a debutant there in Mohammed Siraj. It is believed that Bumrah has a calm head and is getting better in matches and series. Can this continue to work as a de facto bowling leader?
Paine backed both Matthew Wade and Cameron Green before this match and said Australia are not thinking about how to fit Warner in until they absolutely have to. There are no indications of any changes in the lineup.
Australia (probably): 1 Joe Burns, 2 Matthew Wade, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Nathan Lyon
India dropped Prithvi Shaw and introduced Shubman Gill and Siraj with their debut performances, both of whom had decent outings in training before the series. Rishabh Pant got a hundred in the second of those games and he is on the side to replace Wriddhimana Sahu as goalkeeper. These are changes like similar to similar. Ravindra Jadeja who missed the first test with concussion and hamstring tendons will be the fifth bowling option.
India: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Hanuma Vihari, 6 Rishabh Pant (week), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Plot and conditions
Melbourne’s forecast suggests some large fluctuations throughout the test. The pleasant weather on the first day is expected to be followed by 33 degrees Celsius on the second, which is also the only day with a rain forecast. The last three days are expected to be drastically colder than that.
Statistics and trivia
- Australia have won all six tests they have played since the end of last year’s Ashes. This is the best Paine series since he took over as captain.
- Since 2001, India has played two debutants abroad only twice before – Virender Sehwag and Deep Dasgupta in 2001 against South Africa, and Kohli, Abhinav Mukund and Praveen Kumar in 2011 against the West Indies.
- This will be the 100th test between Australia and India – Australia won 43 and lost 28, and there was one draw.
“The moment we take our foot off the pedal and think we’re going well, in England we saw on that fifth test that we can come off pretty quickly. So the big focus of ours from that fifth test in the ashes is winning after the win and our attitude towards the next game .The last week we have been fantastic in the way we have prepared for this match.We know that some of the players they are talking about will come to their side, like KL Rahula or Rishabh Pant, are dangerous players who like to start the game and will play positively. If we give those guys an inch, they’ll need a mile. ”
Tim Painethe party is aware of some old lessons
Varun Shetty is the Vice-Rector at ESPNcricinfo