Over the weekend, there were two matches played at the SCG. One was in the middle of the SCG – the tour match between India and Australia A. The second was the in-house battle between the Indian team members at the SCG nets. Mayank Agarwal was one player to face the heat of the battle in the centre as well as the intense training session.
Agarwal is the incumbent opener, but in the first innings of the tour game, he was caught behind poking at a ball that would have comfortably sailed over his off-stump. Agarwal's dismissal was a classic example of an Indian batsman unable to cope with the bounce of the Australian tracks. To his credit, Agarwal immediately hits the nets to rectify the issue. For close to an hour, he was assisted by Virat Kohli, who told the opener to practice raising his hands high and not be lured at playing the bouncing ball. Agarwal spent close to an hour practising the ‘leave’. All the hard work had paid dividends as Agarwal scored a fighting 61 in the second innings. Agarwal will face a tougher challenge in the Test match starting on Thursday, but he will have another couple of sessions to practice against the hard new bouncing ball.
Virat Kohli's decision to miss the second tour caught many people off guard, but the Indian captain spent three days at the SCG nets ensuring he was in the right mind space. For three consecutive days, he faced an ample number of deliveries from India’s throw down specialists along with fast bowlers. Kohli’s main focus was to ensure his weight was always coming forward. He told left-hand throw down specialist Nuwan to fling balls from over and around the wicket in preparation for Mitchell Starc. Kohli had paid attention to all the minor details.
Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara also spent plenty of time preparing for Nathan Lyon. The batsman took guard at the bowlers end and Washington Sundar hurled the ball into the bowler’s foot-mark that acted as the rough. Various strategies were discussed amongst the players and batting coach Vikram Rathore. Ravi Ashwin also spent plenty of time fine-tuning his batting.
Back in the middle, Prithvi Shaw showed glimpses of how he can change the fortune of a match in a short period of time by scoring a brisk 40 off 29 balls in the first innings. However, his second innings demise on three means Shaw is the only batsman that has not registered a half-century on this tour. Three of his four dismissals have been the same – trying to punch balls off the back-foot. Shaw’s form is the only concern for India, but he is the incumbent opener and he will have two gruelling net sessions in Adelaide to resolve his technical issues.
Hanuma Vihari’s second innings ton ensured he had the luxury of spending plenty of time in the middle. Vihari has looked solid throughout the tour matches and will be confident of surviving against the bowling line-up of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Starc. Rishab Pant entertained the crowd later on Day two with a dashing century, but the fact that Wridhiman Saha was handed the gloves on Day 3 to practice against pink ball under light, is a sign that the Bengal keeper is the favourite to start the first Test.
Overall, the Indian batsmen will be satisfied with their hit out either during the tour match or in the nets. They have had plenty of practice on the Australian pitches and against the pink ball.
The biggest challenge for fast bowlers has been to increase their workload. Jasprit Bumrah spent close to an hour and a half bowling with the pink ball in the Drummoyne Oval nets during the first tour match. Mohammad Shami bowled 24 overs in the second tour match, including a couple of seven over spells. Shami hooped the ball under the lights at the SCG and also managed to dismiss the Marcus Harris and Joe Burns – Australia’s opening batsmen in the first Test. Bumrah also looked in terrific rhythm and a wry smile was back on his face during the tour match.
Navdeep Saini struggled to get into his groove and seemed like a bowler that is short of confidence. Umesh Yadav only bowled a handful of overs in the nets, but his 33 overs at Drummoyne were high class. Yadav will likely be the third seamer and it augurs well for India that Shami, Bumrah and Yadav look match fit and raring to go in Adelaide.
India still have two sessions at the Adelaide Oval, but in terms of batting and bowling, the team seems to be well prepared for the first Test.
Australia skipper Tim Paine rued the dropped chances for which he had only himself to blame. He dropped Pant twice and Vihari once.
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Ashwin, who made 39 off 128 balls, and Vihari pulled off a remarkable draw for India on day five of the third Test against Australia. Vihari pulled his hamstring at the start of his innings and was struggling to run between the wickets.