After a big win by an innings and 132 runs in Nagpur, India will be aiming for another victory when top-order batter Cheteshwar Pujara marks his 100th Test appearance in the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series starting from Friday at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here from Friday.
Ironically, it was in October 1996 in a one-off Test between India and Australia in what was called then Feroz Shah Kotla ground that the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was first initiated. Now, with the series witnessing the most amazing duels in Test cricket in the past few years, the fans in New Delhi can expect some exhilarating action, if India and Australia can iron out their respective flaws.
India’s top order has been in misfiring mode, barring skipper Rohit Sharma, who was magnificent in his 120, which was a combination of attack and defence in equal measure. K.L Rahul has to get big runs, especially with an in-form Shubman Gill waiting in the wings.
Pujara would like to bring his classical style of batsmanship into play to make his milestone match memorable, while Virat Kohli will be itching to treat the home crowd to an amazing display of strokeplay, provided he manages to get the better of spinners, who have been his Achilles heel for long.
The return of Shreyas Iyer, if he manages to carry the load of a five-day Test match, should boost India’s batting on a dry-looking pitch which is expected to be a slow turner. If Iyer, one of India’s better players of spin and has an average of 56.72 from seven Tests, comes in, then Suryakumar Yadav will have to make way.
One of the most bright aspects of India’s play in Tests has been the lower order bailing them out of many tough scenarios, something which head coach Rahul Dravid had admitted. Comeback man Ravindra Jadeja, along with Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and Axar Patel, brought out a counter-attack which gave India the substantial lead and victory in Nagpur.
With the ball, the spin trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar were top class while Shami and Mohammed Siraj were no less, taking out the openers in quick succession at the start of the innings.
The expected slow nature of the pitch at New Delhi means Australia have to bat out of their skin if they are to make the match run for full five days, something which Sri Lanka did when the stadium hosted a Test match the last time in 2017.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith will again hold the key with the bat for the visitors. The right-handed duo had led a brief resurrection act in Nagpur before it all went downhill for Australia in the first innings. In the second innings, Australia just crumbled like a pack of cards to 91 all out.
With Australia skipper Pat Cummins saying that there is talk of playing three spinners, then it’s a toss-up between left-arm spinners Ashton Agar and Matthew Kuhnemann. But that only happens when Cameron Green is fit enough to take the field on Friday along with left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc.
The task of squaring the series is going to be an uphill one for Australia, especially with India not lost a Test at New Delhi since 1987. For the hosts’, it is a chance to make Pujara’s 100th Test celebration a memorable one with a victory and an inch closer to sealing their spot in the World Test Championship (WTC) final, to be held at the Oval from June 7.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav and Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper).
Australia: Pat Cummins (captain), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Mitchell Starc, and David Warner
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