India’s year of trying to conquer overseas challenges has reached Adelaide. Australia’s year of turmoil has reached their first home Test series since the game was thrown into crisis. No one really knows who starts favourites, but never have India begun a series Down Under with such expectation that this could be their time.
However, that was said about the tours of South Africa and England as well, and both those series went the way of the home side – partly due to a lack of preparation and partly due to some poor selection decisions. India’s warm-up match in Sydney was hardly inspiring as they conceded 544 against the CA XI. They have also lost the hugely talented Prithvi Shaw for at least the first Test. Nothing comes easily in Australia, even when the hosts are beset by their own problems.
It has felt a long build-up to this occasion for Australia – they have played in England, Zimbabwe, the UAE and faced South Africa and India this season in white-ball cricket before this much-anticipated duel. Their bowling attack has survived the turmoil which has cost a multitude of people their jobs, but plenty of questions remain about the batting they have put together for the start of the series.
At home, however, they are rarely dominated. Only South Africa have done it consistently since the days of the great West Indies team. If they can get off to a good start in Adelaide, putting enough runs on the board for the stellar bowling attack, then they could still be tough to stop. India must learn from the tours of South Africa and England – do not give the opposition a head start.
Every time Australia have taken the field since South Africa it has been billed as the new start, but after a lot of limited-overs cricket and a Test series overseas, this feels like their real opportunity to start afresh. This time last year Tim Paine had just returned to Test cricket, now he is captain. What sort of team can he develop? The next six weeks, starting in Adelaide, will tell us a lot. It’s a series that could define both teams.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
Out of Australia’s big three, Pat Cummins emerged as the most consistent of the quicks earlier this year – testament to his years of hard work to overcome the injuries that hampered the early parts of his career. He took a largely forgotten career-best nine-wicket match haul in Johannesburg when the focus was on anything but the cricket, and did not feature in the UAE. As with his fellow pacemen, he has been very carefully handled heading into this Test series, so hopefully he is ready to push up the speed gun. Do not ignore his improving lower-order batting, either.
How about someone other than Virat Kohli? India’s pace attack is the best they have pulled together, but they either don’t have great numbers or haven’t played much in Australia. Jasprit Bumrah falls into the latter category but shapes as a key part of India’s armoury. He made an instant difference to the attack when he came in during the England series, causing particular problems to the left handers, of which Australia have a few. However, many a talented fast bowler has come to Australia and taken too long to adjust to the conditions, especially the lengths required.
Mitchell Marsh has been dropped in favour of frontline batsman Peter Handscomb, while Marcus Harris is confirmed for a debut opening the batting. That will be alongside Aaron Finch, with Usman Khawaja taking the No. 3 spot
Australia 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Marcus Harris, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Travis Head, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
India have ditched their five-bowler policy and named only four frontline bowlers in their XII – the pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah to be complemented by R Ashwin’s off-spin. The only point that is uncertain is who will bat at No.6, with both Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari named in the XII.
India 1 KL Rahul, 1 M Vijay, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma/Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
Adelaide’s previous three Tests have been day-nighters, but India didn’t fancy one of those on this tour so it’s the ground’s first traditional Test match since 2014 when these two sides last met. The surface looked dry the day before the match and there is hot weather predicted for the first day, then warm, sunny conditions throughout so spin could be a factor.
Stats and Trivia
Kohli averages 98.50 at Adelaide Oval with three centuries
Australia will have just one player – Nathan Lyon – who appeared in the 2014-15 Test following the omission of Mitchell Marsh. India could have seven.
India have won just five of their 44 Tests in Australia – they won in Adelaide in 2003-04 on the back of Rahul Dravid’s tour de force and Ajit Agarkar’s six wickets.
Tim Paine: “The (Adelaide Oval) wicket over the last few years here has given enough throughout the game. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Nathan Lyon bowling the overs we need and all three of our quicks are going in very fresh.”
Virat Kohli: “We’re not taking anything for granted. We just want to focus on our skills and what we need to do. We’re looking to correct things that haven’t gone right in the past.”