Where: Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi
Time: Friday 17th of February, 3:00pm AEDT
Australia Squad: Pat Cummins (Captain), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Kuhnemann, David Warner
India Squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav
What a disaster the first test was for the Australian side, suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of an impressive Indian side by an innings and 132 runs. The dropping of the most in-form player of the summer in Travis Head, left many fans and experts scratching their heads. A counterattacking player who can change the game in a session and bowl more than handy off spin was exactly what the Australian side needed in the first test.
The Aussie side, as expected by many, struggled with the Indian conditions and their spinners. Jadeja and Ashwin spun a web around the Australian batters, bowling excellent line and length and never allowing any of the Australian batters to settle or get on top. Their batters showed how to play Indian conditions properly by showing balanced aggression and scoring at a decent rate. Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins were disappointing at times, often over-pitching and getting punished, especially by Sharma and Jadeja. Though Scott Boland didn’t pick up any wickets, he was probably their second best bowler.
As disappointing as the first test was for the Australian team, they found an absolute gem in Todd Murphy, with the debutant getting 7 of India’s 10 wickets. He bowled with confidence and accuracy, whilst having the ability to mix up his pace, seemingly at will. Being more of a flat ‘side spinner’ compared to Lyon’s ‘over spin’ suited the Indian conditions to a tee, hence his success in the first test.
Where to now? Mitchell Starc should re-join the side for the second test in Delhi, most likely for the unlucky Scott Boland. There’s plenty of talk around Nathan Lyon using the footmarks of Starc, however, Australia must remember there’s one of the best off spinners of all time in Ashwin who can use them just as, if not more effectively. Travis Head will be brought back into the side, most likely at the expense of Matt Renshaw who suffered a minor injury in the Nagpur Test. Matt Kuhnemann has been flowed in to cover for Mitch Swepson as he returns home for the birth of his child. He is unlikely to play at this stage, unless the pitch is somehow even worse than that of the Nagpur pitch.
For Australia to pose any sort of challenge to the Indian side, one of their opening batters must fire. Plenty of talk has been around David Warner this week, but he has shown time and time again over his career, that he loves to fight and plays his best with his back against the wall. If Warner doesn’t make at least a half century this test, selectors may no longer have a choice in keeping him and may rush Travis Head up the order. Usman Khawaja never looked comfortable in the first test yet is usually one of Australia’s best players of spin on sub-continent conditions. Look for a more attacking approach to the Indian bowling this test by both opening, with the blueprint shown to them by Rohit Sharma.
Speaking of Rohit Sharma…. In Indian conditions, he averages 75.2, yes you read that right. Similar to the likes of David Warner and Travis Head, he has the ability to win a game in a single session for his side. Until his dismissal, Murphy looked like the only bowler that could keep him tied down. The Aussie side must get him early if they are any chance at all to win this test.
There will be a huge crowd in, with the test completely sold out hoping to cheer on another Indian Victory. Let’s also not dismiss the fact that India also has a lot to play for, hoping to secure their spot in the World Test Championship Final against the Australia at The Oval from the 7-11 June.
For Australia to win this game, the coin toss is going to be key. If they got bowled out in a session on a day 3 pitch, god help them if they are batting on a day 5 pitch with the ball turning around corners. Until Australia show they can post a score above 300 in Indian conditions, its hard go past India in this test. Expect a closer matchup, but we’re tipping India to go 2-0 up in the series and retain the Border Gavaskar trophy.
Australia – David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy,
India – Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Srikar Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj