Australia look up to batsmen for improved display

Match details

Optus Stadium, Perth
December 14 to 18, 07:50 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv

The main picture

Rarely do India hit the ground running in the first Test of a series in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia). The last time India won the first Test of a series in these countries was on the 2009 tour of New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton. In fact, in this entire millennium, India have won the first Test in the aforementioned countries only twice: the one other being the first Test of the 2006 tour of South Africa at Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg.

Therefore, the result of the Adelaide Test and the manner in which India achieved it—with a belief in the process and the fortitude to close out the match—reflected the circumstances that India and Australia find themselves in now. India are the more settled team even though their batting line-up has the tendency to revolve around one man only on overseas tours. Australia, on the other hand, are looking for players to put their hand up and deliver in the absence of two premier batsmen.

Usman Khawaja disappointed in both the innings and Shaun Marsh, the other senior batsman in the line-up, played a loose shot to get out in the first innings. And, while Australia have batsmen of great potential and who have scored runs at the first-class level (Marcus Harris, for instance), they need Khawaja and Marsh to come good. Marsh’s 60 in the second innings at Adelaide Oval was his first 50-plus score in 13 Test innings and since January. If he can carry the confidence and knowledge he will have gained about the Indian bowling attack from batting 166 balls to Perth, he’ll help Australia immensely. Khawaja struggled to bat with a positive intent and Australia desperately need him to get back among the runs.

At the Optus Stadium in Perth, where the bowlers might get more assistance from a pitch that’s said to be faster than Adelaide Oval, the onus will again be on the batting line-ups to deliver and help gain an upper hand. With the second Test starting just three days after the first, the two teams will have to contend with the fatigue factor. India (194.5) bowled more than 20 overs compared to Australia (218.3) and fielded for about seven sessions in dry heat. Whether the workload at Adelaide Oval forces teams to think about the playing combination remains to be seen.

New Perth Stadium pitch report and weather forecast

“I think Perth will definitely suit our guys a lot more than the Indian players, but the Aussies need to bounce back pretty quickly,” Ricky Ponting has said about the pitch at Optus Stadium, which has hosted two One-Day Internationals so far and will host its first Test starting Friday. This is another drop-in pitch but with a lot more pace and bounce than the one at Adelaide Oval. When Australia played South Africa in an ODI last month, the ball zipped off the surface and thudded into the wicketkeepers’ gloves consistently.  If the pitch, as expected, renders good pace and bounce, the batsmen will enjoy batting on it and the run-rate may well be higher, too.

A couple of showers have been forecast for the third afternoon of the Test (Sunday, December 16), but in general, the forecast says that the weather will be clear with the temperature hovering in the mid-20s (degree Celsius).

India vs Australia 2nd Test playing 11

Australia’s squad for the second Test is the same as the first. Mitchell Marsh, a little surprisingly, didn’t play the first Test, with Tim Paine saying, “Mitch hasn’t been as consistent as he would like and we would like. We know he’s good enough to be a great all-rounder at Test level, but he hasn’t quite put it together at Test level yet.” He was released from the squad to go and play for Western Australia in a Sheffield Shield fixture against Victoria and Marsh didn’t put in a performance—he made 20 and 11 with the bat and took 1/102 in two innings—that might coerce the team management to recall him. That said, Marsh’s absence increases the workload on the four bowlers, and the home team may take the gamble and include Marsh in place of Peter Handscomb. Peter Siddle and Chris Tremain, both fast bowlers, are the only other members of the current squad.

Possible Australia playing 11: 1 Tim Paine (c & wk), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Marcus Harris, 4 Usman Khawaja, 5 Shaun Marsh, 6 Travis Head, 7 Peter Handscomb/Mitchell Marsh, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Nathan Lyon

India will not want have wanted to disturb the winning combination, but injuries to Rohit Sharma and R. Ashwin have forced them to make at least two changes. Hanuma Vihari is likely to come in as a straight swap for Rohit, while Jadeja might replace Ashwin, though chances are that Umesh Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar could also replace the off-break bowler with the pitch sporting a good covering of grass on match eve.

Possible India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Murali Vijay, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Umesh Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ishant Sharma

Match prediction

The bowling attacks are evenly matched, though the Indian quartet fared better than their Australian counterparts in the first Test. We are only one Test into the series, but chances are that the team who bat better will be difficult to beat in Perth. The Australia team management will expect Mitchell Starc to be sharper in Perth after being slightly wayward in the second innings at Adelaide Oval. Nathan Lyon continues to be the one causing problems for Indian batsmen and his battle against the Indian batting line-up has the potential to tilt the balance of the match either way.

Your opinion...