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Australia could not have played a more perfect game on day three of the opening Test against India leaving the home side with a one-nil lead in the series.
But many questions still remain heading into the Boxing Day Test with Virat Kohli’s departure leaving a big hole in the Indian side.
These are the burning questions that remain after the first Test of the summer.
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Australia dominate first test
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WILL AUSTRALIA STICK OR TWIST ON THE OPENING PARTNERSHIP?
Australia might’ve taken out the opening match of the series.
But Justin Langer will have some sleepless nights working out the make-up of his top order.
If David Warner (groin) is passed fit, he is a certainty to return, meaning there will be a tough decision to make.
Heading into the final innings of the Test, Joe Burns would’ve been the obvious player to leave out after a failure to start the match.
However, a six to bring up the victory brought about a half-century for the underfire opener who was averaging single figures in First-Class action this year.
Middle order batter Matthew Wade put his hand up to partner Burns after Will Pucovski (concussion) was ruled out, with Australia electing not to include Marcus Harris at the top of the order despite a late squad call-up.
Wade made a solid 33 before a freakish run out from short leg and keeper late in the contest.
Burns slogs 6 to win test!
With Cameron Green’s inclusion and the want for an all-rounder in the side, Wade might well now be battling with Travis Head for a middle order role.
Head failed against India but is come off two scores of over 150 in Sheffield Shield cricket.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wade miss out altogether despite his feat of putting his hand up to open.
Time will tell as to how the opening battle will play out. Pucovski might need Warner to fail a fitness test leading into the match to be considered for a home Boxing Day Test debut.
However, regardless of Warner’s fitness, Burns might have well locked his spot for the remainder of the summer on the back of a strong performance to conclude the Test.
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HOW WILL INDIA BOUNCE BACK WITHOUT KOHLI?
India will have a massive hole in the side in the form of Virat Kohli.
It was all set up for the leader to take a Test off the Aussies and give his side the best chance of keeping the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
However, it all fell apart when the Indian captain was run out by his vice-captain on day one of the Test.
Ajinkya Rahane leads the side and he’ll be searching for more middle order support.
Hanuma Vihari could be the man to move to No.4 in Kohli’s absence, with Shubman Gill and KL Rahul waiting in the wings for a call-up.
India will need to fill a hole left by Kohli. Photo: William West/AFP.Source: AFP
India will also need to consider what to do with Prithvi Shaw after his disappointing start on Australian soil, with two similar dismissals.
Kohli’s middle order runs normally stabilises the squad and his on-field prowess is almost impossible to replace.
It will take plenty of stern words to help the Indian side bounce back after the horror on Saturday’s batting.
The fielding is also a major focus for the side after dropping chances to take control in the opening five sessions of the game.
With Jasprit Bumrah and experienced spinner Ravi Ashwin at their disposal, the side will look for leadership from the front in on-field performances.
The batting unit needs to gel and not just rely on Cheteshwar Pujara, who often is left to do it all. His slow style might play to his game, but his teammates might not be able to play like ‘the wall’ and results in Australia’s bowlers to take control.
India bowled for 36!!
DID THE AUSSIE QUICKS PAPER OVER THE CRACKS AFTER A TORRID FIRST INNINGS BATTING PERFORMANCE?
At 7-111 and trailing by 133, it’s an absolute miracle Australia wrapped up the game less than 24 hours after such a poor performance.
It started with the new-look opening partnership which failed to fire – although both Burns and Wade pressed their case in the second innings – leaving plenty of work for others.
Steve Smith’s back setback might well have hindered the superstars batting performance given he looked nothing like the man who peeled off two centuries in the white ball series against India.
India also looks to have worked out Marnus Labuschagne, with a strong attacking performance at the stumps helping send back Australia’s No.3.
Travis Head chipped back Ashwin for just 7, while the debutant Cameron Green (11) showed good signs before Kohli clung on at mid-wicket.
One innings, four India drops
It left Tim Paine to do all the hard yards with the score at 111 upon Pat Cummins’ third ball departure.
Another 80 runs from that point was vital in the game as the captain played one of his best knocks in the baggy green.
Fast forward to an hour into day three it was all over as the bowlers did the hard yards for Australia, ripping out any chance India had of taking a one-nil lead.
Hazlewood and Cummins combined for the nine scalps with Shami forced to retire hurt.
All the praise certainly goes to the bowling unit, but questions need to be asked about the batting unit that is far from a comfortable top six.
IS TIM PAINE BECOMING ONE OF THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN CAPTAINS?
He still has a long way to go in that category, but not as far as you might think.
Tim Paine‘s name will probably still feel a little out place next to the likes of Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting, but his leadership of the Australian cricket team cannot be questioned.
Under Paine, Australia retained the Ashes urn in England for the first time since 2001 and is now on a six-Test winning streak across three series.
But there‘s far more to the 36-year-old’s captaincy than his win-loss record alone.
For starters, the Australian public is falling in love with its national cricket team again after a period in which it could barely look it in the eye.
After the ball-tampering saga of 2018, the team‘s reputation amongst its own – and indeed all world cricket – was in tatters, but is now in far better health under Paine’s guidance.
When asked how Paine will be remembered as an Australian captain, Shane Warne said on Fox Cricket: “I think he’s done a wonderful job to go down as a good leader of men, to be remembered as one of the guys who got Australia out of the lowest ebb it ever had.
“Tim Paine has been absolutely outstanding in getting Australia back to being loved and admired again.”
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Kerry O‘Keeffe was of a similar opinion, saying: “(Paine) restored pride in Australian cricket through his leadership, (is the) best technician to bat at No.7 for some time (and a) pretty boy who is as tough as teak.“
Paine isn‘t just worth his leadership and wicketkeeping to this team, as was often suggested when he first took the reins from Steve Smith. Captain’s knocks from Paine are becoming a more regular feature of his game, as seen during the first Test.
With Australia‘s back to the wall at 5-79 in the first innings, he batted with the tail, and under lights to topscore for Australia with an unbeaten 73.
Adam Gilchrist said the gritty innings, combined with his leadership and glovework, made Paine Australia‘s star performer despite the rampage of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins on day three.
“Look, I think that‘s a man-of-the-match performance to be honest,” Gilchrist told foxsports.com.au.
“It was spectacular damage inflicted by the quicks today, but even if Australia hadn‘t produced that (on day three) with the ball, if Tim Paine had got out when he came to the crease earlier at 5-79, who knows what the deficit might have been in the first innings.
“He did drop one challenging catch at full stretch last night, but the fact he‘s going for it means he’s moving well. I barely remember a miss-gloved ball in the first innings.
Tim Paine produced a crucial innings. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images.Source: Getty Images
“To close it out with five catches, which never really gets mentioned a lot so we better give that a mention, his impact on the game I think was as equal as anyone else‘s.”
Meanwhile, Hazlewood said after the match that Paine‘s batting – he now averages 33.40 – continues to go from strength to strength.
“He‘s batting as well as I’ve ever seen I think,” he told reporters. ”Bowling in the nets and in the centre wicket leading into the game he was batting really well, so he’s got some good confidence going.”
The difference between Paine and Australia‘s most revered leaders is that he’s not considered to be one of the elites of the game, like any of the former captains mentioned above were.
In truth, those players set an unrealistic expectation about what being an outstanding captain is – but Paine is one worth admiring, too.
HOW DID THE SUMMER OF KOHLI GO?
It certainly went far better than it might seem after that Adelaide Oval disaster.
Kohli leaves the tour for the birth of his first child having lost the ODI series, won the T20 leg, but, most importantly, with India down 1-0 in the Border-Gavaskar series.
It was a Test India simply couldn‘t afford to lose. Comeback wins in away Test series are a rarity in world cricket – and that’s to say nothing of the massive hole Kohli leaves as both a player and leader.
But while Australia certainly had the last laugh in its shortened battle with Kohli, the 32-year-old can certainly leave with his head held high.
In the white ball games, he averaged 57.66 in ODIs and 44.66 in the T20s while making three half centuries. No player on either side made more than Kohli‘s 307 runs across the six matches.
Then at Adelaide Oval for the first Test, Kohli was once again leading the way and looked certain to make his first century of the tour. That‘s when everything changed through no fault of his own.
Kohli was on 74 when Ajinkya Rahane burned him at the non-striker‘s to run out his captain. Before the runout, India was 3-188. After the runout, India lost 16-88 to lose the Test by eight wickets.
Without the runout, who knows how many India could have made in its first innings.
Kohli‘s biggest blemish was in the second innings when India was skittled for 36 and he only added four runs.
There‘s no doubt he loses marks for that, but the numbers still suggest he leaves as the best batsman of the tour so far.