After spending more than 2 months Down Under, it has come down to this—the series decider in Brisbane between India and Australia. Interestingly, along with the Test series, the entire tour is level at 3-3 if you include the white ball series. The winner of this final test can firmly claim bragging rights.
Australia have a chance to wrestle back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from India. For them, the task is simple. Win at The Gabba, a venue where they haven’t lost a Test since 1988, and they would have prevented India from beating them in their backyard for a second time running.
As for India, even a draw would suffice to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But it is easier said than done. In 6 Tests at The Gabba, the best India have managed a draw in 2003, when Sourav Ganguly’s outstanding century denied Steve Waugh’s side a victory.
Ajinkya Rahane's men come into the game having defied all odds, from injuries to racism, to achieve the unthinkable. When the bails were taken off, they had batted more than 130 overs against an Australian bowling attack widely regarded as one of the world's best.India pulled off a great escape in Sydney.
The way India did it was even more special. India lost their captain in the second over of Day 5. Pujara and a resurgent Pant steadied the ship, but they too departed after fighting knocks. It was Hanuma Vihari with a shredded hamstring and Ravichandran Ashwin with a sore back who guided India to a fighting draw, in what will go as one of India’s classic escapes.
While morale was high after the draw, things have gone downhill for the visitors since then. They knew that Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja would unavailable for the 4th Test. What they didn’t know was that Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Mayank Agarwal would be in doubt too.
Media reports suggest that Bumrah wouldn’t be risked, as India try and manage his abdomen injury. Mayank Agarwal will probably play, but not at his usual opening slot. It remains to be seen whether Ravichandran Ashwin can recover from injury. If not, expect Kuldeep Yadav to make his first appearance in this series.
To say India have struggled with injuries would be an understatement. They have lost their first-choice seamers, and Mohammed Siraj will lead the attack in Brisbane. That was something the pacer wouldn’t have predicted when the tour started, as he gets ready to play his 3rd Test. He will be flanked by Navdeep Saini and one of Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan, as India hands a debut to a pacer for the 3rd time in 3 games.
It will also be interesting to see how India go about their middle order. With Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja out, both Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant may make the team. Agarwal and Shaw are also options if India wants to beef up its batting on what is traditionally a bouncy wicket at The Gabba.
All the chatter around Australia after the 3rd Test has been about their on-field antics and their inability to win in Sydney. Steve Smith was accused of tampering with Rishabh Pant’s guard marks, while Tim Paine’s distasteful verbal spat with Ravichandran Ashwin attracted criticism from all corners. That they failed to bowl out an injury-ridden Indian side, despite having more than 130 overs at their disposal, found mentions as well.
Since then, the Australians have regrouped. They have said all the right things in the aftermath of the Sydney Test, with Tim Paine leading from the front as he apologized for his conduct in the 3rd Test. The home side has announced their playing 11 for the final Test, with Marcus Harris replacing the injured Will Pucovski for their final Test. This means that Australia go into the Test with their 4th opening combination in 4 games.
The side's famed pace attack is expected to shine at The Gabba. Australia’s pacers pick a wicket every 54 balls in Brisbane since 2010, compared to visiting pacers who get a wicket every 79 balls there. They will hope a 3-day rest between games is enough, particularly after they toiled for 74 overs together during the 2nd innings in Sydney. It will also be a special moment for Nathan Lyon, who is in line to play his 100th Test for the Aussies.
It will be interesting to see how the two sides approach the Brisbane Test. India have performed admirably whenever their backs have been against the wall, and it will be one of India’s greatest achievements if Ajinkya Rahane can rally his troops for one final time.
For Tim Paine, questions will be asked of his captaincy if he can’t beat an injury-ridden India side at a venue that has been their fortress for decades.
India vs Australia match prediction
Australia go into the game as clear favourites. The conditions suit them, the venue suits them and they have more or less their first-choice side playing.
Despite drawing the last game, they will be confident about their chances in Brisbane, especially after they created several opportunities in the 2nd innings. They would be licking their lips at the prospect of a wounded India, as they target a 2-1 series win.
For India, it seems like the latest set of injuries is one setback too many. Their chances will depend a lot on the team they can put out in the 4th Test. With so many young players in the side, it will be difficult for them to counter theAustralians' threats. But they have overcome adversity in the past, so count them out at your own risk as we get ready for a blockbluster end to the series.
Prediction: Australia to winPublished 14 Jan 2021, 16:27 IST