Will the SCG Test match go into the fifth day? That’s a valid question. Not just because the first Test in Adelaide ended in three days and the one at MCG took four. But more than that, it’s a comment about the lack of batting execution from both sides.
A highest total of 326 in practically six innings (average total less than 200) in the series is indicative enough of the batting shortcomings of both sides. Stunningly, despite the low scoring games, both teams have managed to win by big margin of eight wickets each.
Batting efforts have been consistently below par in both these Tests. Of course, the players are living in mentally and physically challenging bio-bubbles. And it’s not easy to be at your best in these circumstances, especially if you are batting in Tests. For, there are no easy scoring opportunities (like in limited-overs cricket) and the nature of the game can render the batsman’s first mistake his last one.
No Australian has scored a Test hundred against India in six previous Tests. A hundred by Steve Smith in Dharamshala in March 2017 was the last ton by an Aussie in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
It’s a combination of two-three things going India’s way in this phase: the ban on Warner and Steven Smith, no Tests on Indian soil and the coming of age of Indian bowling attack.
After Dharamshala, Australia have scored 28 tons in 31 Tests. Unsurprisingly, Warner and Smith lead the field with six centuries each.
On the other hand, India’s batting woes have been masked by the poor batting and poor catching of their rivals. The visitors have not put 400 runs on the board over two innings in challenging conditions recently: Wellington, Christchurch, Adelaide.
If the Aussies manage to put up a total of 350-plus, the approach and quality of Indian batsmen – barring Pujara and Rahane – will come to the fore. If the others bat in limited-overs mode, it may not work. Whether they discover the art of first-class batting in a match situation remains to be seen.
However, fans have been treated to some quality bowling as Bumrah and Ashwin have joined the Australian party. Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon can be termed as the ‘reliables’ of the modern game.
With Australia’s first-choice dashing opener David Warner expected to return and India’s Shami and Ishant unavailable, the SCG can provide a big test for the Indian bowlers. Considering that Mohd Siraj and Shardul Thakur/Natarajan/Navdeep Saini thin on Test experience, there will be considerable pressure on Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin to take wickets.
If the Aussies can hold on to the catches and their top order can post 150 runs in the first one and a half session without losing too many wickets, India will be put to toughest scrutiny.