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Australia has forced a fourth day in the second Test against India — just — but has a mountain to climb when play resumes again on Tuesday.
These are the talking points after day three of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
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AUSTRALIA HAS BEEN ‘COMPLETELY OUTPOINTED’ BY INDIA
Paine out to SUSPECT edge!
India appears to be one session away from squaring the Test series with Australia after a superb day at the MCG.
India begun the day with five wickets in hand, extending their lead to 131 before their 10th wicket fell.
But two sessions later, the game appeared to be all but over, with Australia’s top order being shot out.
Only Wade provided some resistance, but it was the tactical ploys that again helped the touring team led by vice-captain Rahane.
Smith was again troubled by the leg side field, eventually walking past a ball that clipped his leg stump, while a number of players were caught behind the wicket.
“India have been fantastic throughout (on Monday) with their skill level,” former Aussie spinner Kerry O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket.
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“They had that aberration of two hours in Adelaide where they were winning that game on points. (But) they’ve completely outpointed Australia here (on Monday) and it’s been terrific to watch. Only a miracle can save the home team.
“India with their bowling attack, they expose flawed techniques – and that’s what they’ve done (on Monday). Head, Wade and Burns – they’re squaring-up techniques and their defensive set-ups have been exposed. Even Steve Smith, forced back – a victim of strategy, well executed by Bumrah and Siraj.”
India’s dominance could force multiple changes in Australia’s top-six for the third Test.
“There has been some pretty ordinary batting from the Australians,” Shane Warne added.
INDIA’S TACTICS WILL FORCE SMITH TO HIT MORE AND MORE BALLS
Bumrah bamboozles Smith… Out for 8!
Steve Smith’s shuffle across the crease will be front and centre on day three after the Aussie star was dismissed by the barest of margins.
A delivery from Jasprit Bumrah clipped the edge of the bails, sending Smith on his way for yet another single figure score.
According to CricViz, “Steve Smith has only been bowled by a seamer seven times in home Tests. He averages 43 against balls on his stumps in Australia.”
It was the second lowest aggregate for Smith in Test matches where he was dismissed twice, scoring 0 and 8 at the MCG in the Boxing Day Test.
“He has lost his hands,” Allan Border told foxsports.com.au.
“He found his hands in the one dayers where he looked fantastic. I think they’ve really found a worrying weakness.
“Because he walks across the stumps to get to that onside, with those two fielders they had today, it worries him that he is going to chip it to them if he’s not careful and the bowling is high quality.”
Steve Smith has only been bowled by a seamer seven times in home Tests. He averages 43 against balls on his stumps in Australia. A very, very rare dismissal. #AUSvIND
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 28, 2020
Smith’s timing of his form slump could not come at a worse time with the Australians having an unstable top six, with David Warner’s absence felt.
Border also believed the short ball was an area India’s strong bowling group would continue to target.
“They’ve found a chink in there with the short ball and those sorts of things. He got roughed up there last year, so there’s been a few Test matches where people are looking at those idiosyncrasies and find those chinks,” he said.
“You’ve got to back it up with good bowling, but that’s what has been happening. So he’s got to start rethinking, which he will do, he’s that sort of guy who will analyse. ‘Okay I do get across my stumps and bowlers get a good look at the stumps’.
“He never misses, but he is starting to miss. So that’s something for him to take onboard.
“Instead of hitting 20,000 balls he’ll hit 30,000 balls next week. He will find a way.”
WADE COULD OPEN FOR SOME TIME YET
Allan Border has been impressed with Matthew Wade.Source: Getty Images
Australia hasn’t found many answers with the bat this series, but Allan Border believes it may have at least found one.
The former Australia captain and selector believes Matthew Wade has done enough to keep his spot at the top of the order moving forward.
Like many of his teammates, Wade hasn’t exactly set the scoreboard alight, but he has offered some resistance and shown he’s up for the fight.
While his opening partner Joe Burns flopped with scores of 0 and 4, Wade made 30 and 40, while he soaked up 137 balls on day three.
Border told foxsports.com.au that he was “happy” for Wade who he believes has done an impressive job given the quality of India’s bowling attack, and the fact he had never opened for Australia in Test cricket before the series.
“He has built up a lot of bonus points in my mind in terms of going forward,” Border said. “He’ll find himself an incumbent opener before he knows it.
“At the moment, all of the (contenders) are in hibernation because you aren’t going to pick someone out of Big Bash, I wouldn’t have thought. Marcus Harris or David Warner comes in (for Burns).
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“For me, Wadey earns his stripes to stay as an opener.”
When asked what has impressed him about Wade, Border said: “He’s a fighter.
“So he’s got a bit of character the way he goes about his batting.
“He is learning some good lessons against a quality attack, I like what I see.”
Border said there are still technical areas Wade will need to continue working on, given some of his natural insticts from playing plenty of T20 and ODI cricket, but he’s satisfied that the Tasmanian is making good progress as a Test opener.
Adam Gilchrist is also impressed, saying on Fox Cricket that he expects Wade to hold the spot moving forward.
“Surely he will have some credits in the bank — clearly if he gets a big score — but just the fact he put his hand up and said, ‘yeah, I’ll go to the top of the order, I’ve never done it against the red ball’.”
Nonetheless, Wade could move back to the middle order if David Warner is available for the third Test and Marcus Harris is called up for Joe Burns. There is also Will Pucovski, who was on fire in the Sheffield Shield before his Test push was halted by a concussion.
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‘BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD’ FOR BURNS
Burns’ excruciatingly painful innings
Joe Burns could be finished as a Test opener, but he might not be finished altogether.
After yet another single digit score — his seventh in his past eight first class innings — Kerry O’Keeffe said Burns’ technique no longer stands up to opening the batting at Test level, but he might fare better at No.6.
Burns has batted at No.6 twice for Australia at an average of 36.50, while O’Keeffe said his ability to play spin makes him a better middle order option.
Allan Border said it could be an option moving forward, but for now, it’s likely back to the drawing board for Burns who he says has been a magnet for brilliant deliveries.
“He’s just back to the drawing board. I can’t see him playing in the next Test,” Border told foxsports.com.au.
“He could go back in the middle order if required, in Shield cricket and start making runs — he could get back into the side, but I’m feeling his pain because he’s getting a lot of good balls. If you go through his dismissals there would be a lot of good balls in there.
“It’s sad when you see that thing happening, but that’s the reality of cricket at this level.”
EARLY TACTICS QUESTIONED. BUT SHORT BALL BARRAGE GETS TICK OF APPROVAL
3-1 ends frustrating innings for Aus
Australia wrapped up the remaining handful of India first innings wickets before the lunch break.
But spin bowling legend Shane Warne was among those questioning the early tactics which saw Tim Paine have just one slip and a gully as Australia hunted early wickets.
The damage had already been done on day two with a number of drops, including from the final ball of the day by Travis Head.
Once set batter Ajinkya Rahane departed, Australia resorted to short bowling tactics.
Mitch Starc was brought to the bowling crease and managed to outsmart Ravi Jadeja, who couldn’t resist taking on the short ball barrage.
When countless men around the bat and in catching positions on the boundary, Starc bowled 24 short balls out of 30 in a five over burst before lunch.
92% of Mitchell Starc’s deliveries in this spell have been short.
That’s the highest figure he’s ever recorded in a Test match spell (min four overs).#AUSvIND
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 28, 2020
“They seemed really conservative in the first half hour and then Starcy changed his tack,” Michael Hussey told foxsports.com.au.
“He changed the whole feel around the team, the whole tact around the wicket, lots of short stuff and ruffled out Jadeja, got his wicket and then cleaned it up pretty quickly after that.
“I was a bit disappointed they weren’t a bit more attacking at the start, but think they were worried about that lead getting too far away from them.”
As for the short ball decision, Hussey said: “They wouldn’t have enjoyed facing it. They weren’t scoring from it, I understand the tactic he was in the groove of bowling a lot of short stuff. I think it worked out pretty well in the end once they made that change.”