As has been the case so often this summer, Australia needs its tail to wag to avoid an embarrassing end to a disappointing series against India.
The tourists piled on 7/622 (dec) across the first two days but the Aussies had a far tougher time of it with the bat, slumping to 6/236 at stumps on day three.
Peter Handscomb (28 not out) has a chance to justify his return to the Test team after being dropped for the Boxing Day Test while Pat Cummins (25 not out) can continue to enhance his burgeoning reputation as a genuine all-rounder when they resume at the crease today.
Poor weather and bad light meant the start time was pushed back to 11am AEDT but play has been delayed even further. The covers have been on and off all morning and according to the Bureau of Meteorology there’s a chance of showers into the afternoon before the clouds clear in the evening.
Smith to go on ‘revenge mission’
Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones, who will quit his post at the end of the summer, expects big things from Steve Smith when he returns to the Australian set-up.
The former skipper has nearly three months of his ban for the ball tampering scandal left to serve and Jones believes bowlers should be very afraid when he starts playing international cricket again.
“I’m very confident that Smith will get 1000 runs a year in Test cricket for another five years,” Jones told SEN Test Cricket on day three.
“He averaged 70 or 75 for five years, it’s hard to sustain that for more than five years.
“I think the effect of this will be a refreshment break mid-career, and secondly, he will have a point to prove.
“I think there is going to be a revenge mission on the bowlers for the next five years.”
Astonishing Marsh curse exposed
Shaun Marsh edged Ravindra Jadeja to first slip for eight yesterday as he recorded his 28th single-figure score in 66 Test innings.
Astonishingly, India has been his biggest nemesis, accounting for 14 of those single digit efforts.
Marsh’s next biggest bogey team is South Africa, which has dismissed him six times for less than 10.
Dismissing Shaun Marsh for under 10 runs in a Test
1x: New Zealand
6x: South Africa
— Swamp (@sirswampthing) January 5, 2019
Vaughan’s sledge drops truth bomb on Aussies
Australian captain Tim Paine has complained about the docile pitches served up this series — particularly in the past two Tests — but an Ashes-winning captain says that’s no excuse for the diabolical performance of the home batsmen this summer.
Paine expressed his frustration after the Boxing Day Test was played on a lifeless deck, saying he was disappointed India had been offered conditions that suited them perfectly. He also reflected on the lack of pace and bounce in the wickets after day two of the Sydney Test, while before the series finale coach Justin Langer said: “All I’d say is all the years we’ve gone to India, we haven’t had too many bouncy wickets, it usually spins square.”
But England legend Michael Vaughan said Australia has no right to complain when its own batsmen haven’t been able to cash in on the flat decks.
The hosts have passed 300 just once this series — in the first innings in Perth — and no Aussie has scored a century this summer.
While India piled on 7/443 in perfect batting conditions in Melbourne, the home side was bundled out for a paltry 151. On a flat wicket in Sydney the visitors racked up 7/622 while Paine’s men have stumbled their way to 6/236.
You can’t be mentioning the pitches being too flat when the highest score your Team has got in the series is 326 … #AUSvIND
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) January 5, 2019
India has been fortunate in winning the toss in the past two Tests and enjoying the best of the conditions across the first two days with the bat, but Australia has failed badly even when the conditions haven’t deteriorated too much.
After the MCG Test, Paine told Macquarie Sports Radio: “That’s been the one disappointment. We’ve rolled up some wickets here in Australia that have taken away from our strengths, which is pace and bounce.
“It’s a frustration for us. You never go to India and get served up green wickets. They’ve come out here and we’ve served some wickets up that really suit them.”
Harris mirrors Warner
Marcus Harris has never batted with David Warner but it’s looking ever likely he’ll get the first chance to do so in this year’s Ashes series in England. Harris’s spot on the plane to England is not yet set in stone, but he rammed home his position in the box seat to be selected at the top of the order with his 79 against India on Saturday.
The opening role is one of the great unknowns headed into the marquee series, with Usman Khawaja — who will likely bat No.3 in England — the only Australian to score a century while opening in 2018.
Warner’s controversial return is looking more and more likely, meaning he and Harris are at this stage the most likely combination for at Edgbaston on August 1, with just two home Tests against Sri Lanka to be played between now and then.
“I’ve definitely watched him and envied the way he plays. Anyone who can come out and score a hundred in the first morning of a Test match is a pretty special player,” Harris said.
The 26-year-old appeared to have shades of Warner in his game on Saturday. He raced to his half-century off 67 balls on the flat track at the SCG, and at one stage took Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav for 12 off one over — including two boundaries down the ground and another one pulled through the legside.
“There are definitely times I wish I could bat like him,” Harris said. “But that’s just my natural game, I’m pretty aggressive I just look to play my shots and put it back on the bowlers a little bit.”
Joe Burns and Cameron Bancroft look the other likely candidates for the opening role, with four rounds in the Sheffield Shield to follow the Sri Lankan Tests. Burns has averaged 52.04 in the past two Shield seasons but has played just the one Test in that time, while Bancroft’s nine-month ban is over and he’ll return to first-class cricket next month.
Inexperience keeps costing Aussies
Marcus Harris admits Australia’s inexperienced XI are still coming to grips with the pressure-cooker environment of Test cricket, having finished 6/236 at stumps on day three of the SCG series finale against India.
The tourists, who currently hold a 386-run lead, will likely have the option of enforcing the follow-on for the second Test in a row.
Virat Kohli may wish to give his fast bowlers a break after the temperature hit 37.8 degrees in Sydney before bad light ended play early on Saturday. Regardless of Kohli’s decision, India are perfectly placed to complete an emphatic maiden series win in Australia after their day-two declaration at 7/622.
Harris’ chop-on dismissal on 79, the highest score by an Australian since Usman Khawaja’s knock of 141 in October, shifted momentum and ignited a collapse of 3/24.
Ricky Ponting was among the greats bemoaning “soft” dismissals that had more to do with sloppy shots than fearsome bowling and/or a flat pitch.
“I got a start. A few of us got a start but nobody went on for a big score,” Harris told reporters. “Sometimes when you feel under the pump, pressure is a big thing.
“This is my first Test series. The thing that’s different is the spotlight you’re under, the amount of pressure that you’re under and the scrutiny.
“It’s just a matter of trying to deal with it and get through tough patches … we’re fighting our hardest.”
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja removed Harris and Shaun Marsh, who smoked two cover-driven boundaries then offered Ajinkya Rahane a regulation catch at slip. Rahane plucked a far more remarkable catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne, who flicked the ball off his pads with beautiful timing but terrible placement.
Labuschagne scored 38, showing promise but ultimately failing to cash in after his contentious call-up.
Travis Head, who looked set on 20, inexplicably chipped a full toss back to tweaker Kuldeep Yadav in the penultimate over of Saturday’s second session. Peter Handscomb, unbeaten on 28, has an ideal pitch on which to prove he belongs at Test level and looms as Australia’s best hope of finally celebrating a century this series.
Pat Cummins is 25 not out, extending the career-best form with the bat he showed in Melbourne.
“The wicket is still pretty good and doesn’t look like it’s going to play many tricks,” Harris said “Pete and Patty batted really well.”
Australia hasn’t played a four-Test series at home and failed to register at least one century.
There were no Australian centuries in 1882-83, England’s first Ashes tour, but the final match in that four-Test series was an exhibition fixture.
“We’ve definitely had opportunities to make hundreds this series. It’s been execution or a few funny ways that people have got out,” Harris said. “I am desperate to make a hundred but it’s not the only thing I think about in the middle.”