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Young star Will Pucovski’s long wait for his Test debut has finally come to an end, with the 22-year-old presented his baggy green by his former Victoria coach Andrew McDonald before opening the batting for Australia.
Pucovski is part of a new look opening partnership with David Warner at the SCG for the third Test against India, after overcoming the ninth concussion of his young career to be passed fit to play.
Having won the toss, Australia is 0-4 with Pucovski (1) and Warner (3) at the crease.
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Crash talks Warner, Pucovski and Sharma
Travis Head is the man who has been dropped for Pucovski as one of two changes to Australia’s XI. The other is David Warner who replaces Joe Burns on his return from injury.
Pucovski was called into Australia’s Test squad for the final two matches after sitting out the first two following a blow to the helmet suffered in a tour match against the Indians.
He has also beat Victorian teammate Marcus Harris to the opening berth following the axing of Joe Burns.
The right-hander averages 54.50 in first-class cricket and has come close to Australian selection repeatedly in the past few years.
Meanwhile, Warner makes his long-awaited return to Australia’s XI for his first Test against India since 2017.
Shane Warne said on Fox Cricket before the match that there should still be some concerns about his fitness.
“The only thing I’d be scared or worried about for Warner is when the spinners come on. I reckon he might struggle,” Warne said.
“With a groin injury you might struggle with things like reaching out to play defensive shots, just general shots, pull shots. I reckon that long stride forward especially to the spinners is going to be quite difficult.”
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Australia XI: David Warner, Will Pucovski, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini
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PUCOVSKI’S GRUELLING ROAD LEADS TO PIVOTAL MOMENT
One of the most eagerly-anticipated debuts in recent Australian cricket history will come to fruition on Thursday when the third Test begins at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Will Pucovski has been presented his baggy green before the all-important encounter as Australia looks for a solution to its batting woes that allowed India to tie the Border-Gavaskar series 1-1 in Melbourne last month.
Pucovski’s selection caps off a rollercoaster 26 months for the 22-year-old who has ridden the highs and lows of professional sport on his way to receiving the honour.
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Since breaking out as the next rising superstar of Australian cricket in October 2018, Pucovski has twice taken leave for mental health reasons and battled repeated concussions.
Those major setbacks, however, have come with commensurate professional highs, such as being picked in a Test squad before his 21st birthday, and scoring back-to-back double centuries for Victoria this season.
On Thursday, he will likely add opening the batting for Australia to that list.
Pucovski was on the brink of doing so for the first Test last month until a bouncer during an Australia A match left him with a concussion — the ninth of his career.
The blow saw him ruled out of the Boxing Day Test too but, with Australia failing to score more than 200 runs in an innings this series, a spot in its XI still has his name on it.
“Will has been fantastic as well. He’s been out of the bubble for a couple of weeks so he’s excited. He’s fresh. He has been batting really well in the nets and looks ready to go if called upon,” Australia captain Tim Paine said on Wednesday.
Pucovski will open alongside David Warner, who also missed the first two Tests of the series.
Australia has sorely missed the veteran opener who strained his groin in November and still has not played a Test against India since 2017.
Australia enters the third Test at the SCG — limited to 10,000 fans who must wear face masks — with its bowlers firing on all cylinders but its batsmen coughing and spluttering.
Only two players have made more than fifty runs in an innings this series, while only Marnus Labuschagne and Paine are averaging more than 30.
Travis Head has made just 62 runs at 20.66 and could be the man to make way for Pucovski with Matthew Wade dropping back to the middle order alongside Cameron Green.
Warner, meanwhile, would take the place of Joe Burns who has already been released from the Test squad after a poor run of form.
How the Pink Test is adapting
Australia needs the changes to work with India now just one win away from retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy having won comfortably at the MCG to tie the series.
Australia, however, has not lost a Test series on home soil after leading since 1992-93 when it lost 1-2 against the West Indies.
Meanwhile, India has not won consecutive Tests in Australia since 1977-78, while it has only won a Test series having trailed on four occasions — although two of those were against Australia.
The SCG has been a happy hunting ground for Australia against India, whose only win in the Harbour City was in 1978.
India has made two changes to the XI that won the Boxing Day Test, handing Navdeep Saini his Test debut for the injured Umesh Yadav, while adding veteran Rohit Sharma for struggling opener Mayank Agarwal.