But an unbelievable 15.2 overs in the first session of Day 3 saw the visitors getting bundled out for their lowest-ever Test total of 36 all out. Isn’t that supposed to hurt even more then? So close, yet so very far.
India will go into the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground starting Saturday (December 26) not just with a 0-1 trail and the residual scars. They will be also without their regular captain Virat Kohli and a spearhead fast bowler in Mohammad Shami.
India, however, have happy memories in Melbourne. It was at this venue that India capped off a historic win two years back to become the first Asian team to win a Test series Down Under. Jasprit Bumrah, who had produced a match-winning haul of 9/86, would have more responsibility on his shoulders this time around, in the absence of both Shami and Ishant Sharma.
India on Friday announced their playing XI for the Boxing Day Test, which will see the hosts play with four new players from the team they fielded at Adelaide. Mayank Agarwal will have a new partner in Shubman Gill at the top of the order, while fast bowler Mohammad Siraj is also set to make his international bow.
The wicketkeeper conundrum was finally put to bed as 23-year-old Rishabh Pant was selected ahead of Wriddhiman Saha. However, the biggest and potentially the most influential change of them all was the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7.
Reading between the lines would point out that India in Melbourne would look a more balanced outfit than India in Adelaide. Yes, Shubman Gill – with a first-class average of 68.78 – will bring more to the table than what Prithvi Shaw could in the previous Test. Mohammad Siraj has picked 44 wickets at an average of 27 for India A across tours to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
But there is no ignoring the fact that the duo would have to initially beat their maiden Test nerves before even thinking of making an impact against the hosts. That said, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are playing a Test match together in a SENA country for the first time ever, and they indeed bring stability to the visiting line-up.
Jadeja put on an incredible display in the white-ball leg, scoring 115 runs at an average of 57.50 in the three-match ODI series and an unbeaten 23-ball 44 in the first T20I before sustaining a hamstring injury. Ashwin, on the other hand, was the pick of the Indian bowlers in the first Test, scalping five wickets.
The duo would be able to smoothly bridge the gap between a technically-sound top-order and a fragile tail, and arrest any slide similar to the one in Adelaide. And they would also be effective with the ball on what could potentially be a slow, low deck at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Another aspect ailing India ever since they touched down in Australia has been their fielding. Butter fingers have plagued the visitors in the six white-ball matches and also in the pink-ball Test last week. And as former India player Pravin Amre rightly pointed out in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane needs to lead by example in both the batting and fielding departments.
Australia, on the flip side, are simply enjoying the view from atop both the ICC Test rankings and the World Test Championship. The Tim Paine-led side have more problems to address off the field than on it. Star opener David Warner is yet to recover from his hamstring injury, while 21-year-old Will Pucovski is yet to attain full fitness from the concussion he suffered in the first tour match.
Justin Langer, however, would want his batters to fare a lot better than the 191 they managed to score in the first innings at the Adelaide Oval. And the foundation for that would have to be laid by the openers. On the bowling front, the speedsters look in fantastic rhythm while off-spinner Nathan Lyon would be licking his lips at the sight of the MCG wicket.
IND v AUS 2020: India v Australia match prediction
India look stronger, only when compared to their playing XI from the day-night Test in Adelaide. But they aren’t going anywhere compared to Australia’s line-up. The hosts still look quite formidable, and they continue to hold the edge over India.
However, the balance might shift if India – led by Ajinkya Rahane – put on a collective effort with the bat and on the field. Like always, and something that was amiss in Adelaide, a lot will hinge around the openers Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill giving the visitors a good start.
Bowling still looks India’s forte, but it doesn’t seemingly stand a chance against Australia’s four-pronged attack comprising Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. The hosts have just got their batting to improve to showcase a 10/10 performance.
Prediction: Australia to win.
Published 25 Dec 2020, 19:54 IST