After India wrapped up the T20 series on Sunday, all the focus is now slowly shifting towards the Test series. The three-day tour match between India A and Australia A has slightly gone under the radar, but the practice match has provided mixed results for both sides.
Test specialists Shine
For over three hours on the opening day, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara showcased what it takes to be a Test batsman. The pitch at Drummoyne had bounce and pace. The Australian bowling unit were high class – James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Michael Neser and Mark Steketee. India had lost both their openers for a duck. This was as close as it can get to Test cricket.
The most impressive part about Rahane and Pujara’s batting was their ability to leave the ball on length. Sub-continent batsmen often err in playing at balls that are passing well over the stumps, but throughout their innings both men judged the length immaculately. There were deliveries that climbed steeply, but both men were very quick to move their hands out of the way.
Pujara was never lured by the full balls outside his eye-line and Rahane refused to play the cut or the pull for the 50 balls of his innings. Rahane went on to score an unbeaten century and Pujara made 54, before being caught at leg-gully. But it is in the manner both men played the accumulation and waiting game that will please all Indian supporters.
Who will open for Australia in the first Test?
Initially, the three day tour match was meant to be a shootout between Will Pucovski and Joe Burns on who will partner David Warner. And now, Warner is set to miss the first Test due to a groin injury. But as the tour match came to end on the Day three, Pucovski felled after being hit by a bouncer.
The emerging star had to leave the field and with a history of concussion is now in extreme doubt for the first Test. This makes Joe Burns a certain starter, but the Queenslander only managed four runs and a duck in the tour match.
Burns averages 8.9 in his seven first class innings this season and he looked slightly out of place against the likes of Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj. Pucovski's absence means Marcus Harris, who batted at No 3 and scored 35 and 25 not out could well be Burns’ partner for the opening Test.
How do Australia accommodate Cameron Green into the playing XI?
Cameron Green is ready for Test cricket. The tall Western Australian all-rounder composed a fine unbeaten 125 on the second day of the tour match. Two aspects that stood out about Green in his 202 ball stint were his defence and patience.
Batting at No.5, Green was instrumental in resurrecting innings from 68-4 to 309. Green has been a middle-order batsman, but if Australia is to squeeze him in the XI then either Matthew Wade or Marnus Labschagne will need to open, a task none of them has done in First Class cricket.
The other option is to promote Green to the opening slot, he undoubtedly has the technique, but he is only 20 and with a long future ahead it is difficult to see Australia throw him into Test cricket as an opener. While Green’s form is great, Australia just has to manage a way to fit him.
Who will be India’s third seamer?
Umesh Yadav stepped up as the leader of the attack in the tour match. Yadav bowled with pace, skills and he was extremely accurate.
In the past, Umesh has been guilty of leaking runs by erring on the leg-stump line, but at Drummonyne Oval, he conceded only 48 runs from 20 overs. Add to that, he swung the ball and hit the deck hard.
Importantly for India, it was his second and third spells which were more accurate. After his performance in the tour match, Umesh is the front-runner for the third seamer. However, there is yet another tour match starting on Friday and if Navdeep Saini can take wickets and control his economy, then the final decision will only be made closer to the Test match.
Is Ravi Ashwin a certain starter for the first Test?
Ravindra Jadeja’s injury has opened the door for Ashwin to play in the opening Test. The classy off-spinner bowled superbly during the tour match and claimed two for 62 from his 22 overs in the first innings.
Ashwin bowled with lovely loop and proved to be handful, especially against the left handers. The wind that blew across the Drummoyne Oval aided him with his drift and he also managed to spin the ball past the left handers a lot. While Kuldeep Yadav also bowled the same amount of overs, it was Ashwin that was clearly India’s first choice spinner.
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