India recorded a confidence boosting six-wicket win over hosts Australia in the deciding T20 to end the three-match series on a high. But for the persistent rains in the second T20 at Melbourne, the tourists could have even ended up with a series win.
Now, the attention shifts to the hotly anticipated four-match Test series which gets underway at the Adelaide Oval on December 6. Very rarely has a touring Indian team been considered favourites in a Test series in Australia but that is the tag that Virat Kohli and his men find themselves labelled with.
With the hosts still feeling the aftershocks of the ball-tampering scandal with the international bans handed out to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft in force, many former players including Shane Warne see India as the favourites to triumph in the Test battle.
Australia have failed to really get going under new head coach Justin Langer with victory over Pakistan in a one-off T20 in the UAE being the only bilateral series the side has won across all formats in his tenure so far.
However, despite how beleaguered the hosts might look, No1 ranked India can’t take it easy in the Test series. Here, we look at three reasons why.
AUSTRALIA’S PACE TRIO
India’s batsmen remain vulnerable against pace in red-ball cricket as shown by their displays in South Africa and England where only Kohli was able to come out with his reputation intact.
Australia have plenty of firepower in their fast-bowling arsenal in the form of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Hampered by injuries, the pace trio have been wrapped in cotton wool in the lead up to the series with Australia resisting the temptation to unleash them in the dusty and slow pitches of the UAE against Pakistan.
Even when Starc was given a surprise T20I recall in the series decider against India, he showed how menacing he can be by taking the wicket of a well-set Shikhar Dhawan in a tight spell of fast bowling.
The three pacers will prove to be a handful on home conditions and will be raring to have a go against the Indian batting card after an extended period of rest and rehabilitation.
AUSSIE BATSMEN’S STRONG HOME RECORD
The absence of Steve Smith and David Warner from the Test squad is the biggest factor which has seemingly skewed the balance in India’s favour.
The duo are undoubtedly Australia’s two best batsmen and their loss would weaken any Test side, let alone the hosts’. Australia’s batting struggled at times against Pakistan in the absence in what was their maiden Test series under Langer’s tenure.
The Marsh siblings – Shaun and Mitchell – were criticised for their dismal performances with the bat in the two-Test series but closer inspection shows that the brothers can be a force in home conditions.
In the most recent Test series on Australian soil (the Ashes), the Marsh siblings struck two tons each as the hosts romped to a 4-0 win. Usman Khawaja is another batsman who relishes home conditions and he will be coming into the series with some confidence after his superb efforts in the series loss to Pakistan.
Aaron Finch is still taking his initial steps in the Test format but he could prove to be dangerous in home conditions if he gets going.
AUSSIES SEEK REDEMPTION
It has been a bleak period on and off the pitch for the Aussies ever since the ball-tampering saga at Newlands. The scandal continues to engulf Australian cricket even after all these months.
Cricket Australia’s review into the episode opened up more can of worms which saw some high-profile resignations. All in all, Australian cricket is probably at the lowest it has been in many years.
However, there can be no better way for Australia to turn the mood around than beating the No1 ranked Indians in front of their own fans. A series victory against the Indians might be just the tonic Australian cricket needs to come out of its shell.
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