India vs Australia, 1st Test Toss Report: Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first at the Adelaide Oval in the first Test of the four-match series starting today. India had announced their playing XI a day before retaining an out of form Prithvi Shaw and including Wriddhiman Saha ahead of Rishabh Pant.
Australia today opted to retain their out of form opener too in Joe Burns and Matthew Wade gets bump up to the top in the absence of David Warner, while allrounder Cameron Green makes his Test debut.
Australia (Playing XI): Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine(c/w), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India (Playing XI): Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha(w), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
India vs Australia, 1st Test Preview:
Two seasons ago, around this time of the year, India were already 1-0 up in the four-match series with a win over Australia in the series opener in Adelaide. Much has changed since then. Australia is now a much stronger and rejuvenated unit with the return of Steven Smith in the XI (and Warner, hopefully from the second Test onwards). This, coupled with the fact that the first Test will be a Day and Night affair with the Pink Ball will make India’s challenge that much harder this time around.
Cheteshwar Pujara would again hold the key to India’s fortunes Down Under. He was the highest run getter in 2018-19 and started the series with a hundred in Adelaide. Skipper, Virat Kohli would be desperate to leave a mark and contribute with a big score before he sets off for his paternity leave. Ajinkya Rahane had a mediocre series last time around (two fifties in 7 innings) and would be keen on a better performance in 2020-2021.
India, not surprisingly are going with 6 batsmen - their preferred combination overseas. It will also give them extra cushion against the moving Pink Ball. Hanuma Vihari, who impressed in the second Tour Match against Australia A has deservedly retained his place at Number 6. The visitors have opted for Wriddhiman Saha over Rishabh Pant giving more importance to skills behind the stumps than heroics with the bat.
India have two aces in their bowling department - Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have the ability to run through the Australian line-up, especially if they are lucky to bowl with the Pink Ball around twilight. Bumrah was the joint-highest wicket-taker in 2018-19 with 21 wickets in 4 Tests while Shami also played his part with 16. Umesh Yadav, who remarkably, has a better average and strike rate than even Bumrah and Shami since 2018, will be the third seamer while, given his experience, R Ashwin is the right choice for the specialist spinner’s position.
Australia have to start favourites at Adelaide - not only as they are playing at home and have the best Test batsman in the world back amongst their ranks and a devastating pace bowling unit but also because of their splendid record in Day and Night Test cricket. Australia have played 7 of the 14 Day and Night Tests held thus far and won all 7, five of them by big margins. Moreover, all these matches were held at home in Australia and 4 of these wins were in Adelaide!
The key for Australia will be their Number 3 and 4 - if Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne score big Australia will fancy their chances. Labuschagne has been their highest scorer in Test cricket since his debut in 2018 and has aggregated 1459 runs in just 14 Tests at an average of 63.43 including 4 hundreds in this time-frame. Smith, widely regarded as amongst the greatest Test batsmen of all-time, has scored 1253 runs in 13 Tests at an average shade under 60 with 3 hundreds since 2018.
The home team, have unarguably, the best pace attack in the world who will be even more lethal with the Pink Ball. Mitchell Starc has a tally of 42 wickets in 7 Day and Night matches, Josh Hazlewood - 26 in six and Pat Cummins - 19 in four. Cummins is widely regarded as the best Test bowler in the world - he has picked 107 wickets in 21 matches at 20 apiece since 2018. Nathan Lyon is the leading wicket-taker amongst spinners in the last three years with 104 wickets in 23 Tests.