15/04/2024

Virat Kohli. Picture: It's No Game/Flickr

Australia vs India First Test Preview. The Inner Sanctum has delivered its Australia vs India First Test Preview ahead of Thursday.

The cricketing rivalry between Australia and India is considered by some to be equal in ferocity and intensity to the Ashes. 

Such was the tension in Australia’s tour of India in 2017 that Indian captain Virat Kohli declared following the series that his friendships with many of the Australian players had been permanently damaged.

Again in the 2018/19 series, the seemingly incessant on-field jibes between players provided an entertaining and intriguing subplot to the series. 

The Australia-India rivalry wouldn’t be complete without the ongoing debate as to which country proudly possesses the world’s best players in the world. 

Whether it’s Smith vs Kohli with the willow, the quicks Bumrah and Cummins or the crafty spinners Lyon vs Ashwin, all eyes will be on Adelaide and the battles within the overall war ahead of the 2020/21 edition of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. 

The Inner Sanctum has delivered its Australia vs India first test preview, including an in-depth look at the players that will shape the series.

Head-to-Head

The overall ledger in this matchup sits in favour of Australia.

The Aussies have won 42 of the 98 test matches the countries have played. India have won 28, with 27 matches resulting in a draw and one tied test match in 1986.

48 of these 98 matches have been played in Australia, with the hosts winning 29 of these. India has won seven test matches on Aussie soil, and 12 between the countries have resulted in a draw.

When hosting Australia , India has won 21 tests, with the Aussies winning 13. 15 have resulted in a draw, and the tied test of 1986 was played in India. 

The teams have faced off at the Adelaide Oval 12 times, the first of which was in 1948. The Aussies have won seven of these matches, with India victorious in two, and three ending in a draw. India won the most recent match between the two sides, beating Australia by 31 runs in 2018. 

Key Players

Virat Kohli

It’s been well documented that the Adelaide test will be Kohli’s only test hit-out before he returns to India for the birth of his first child.

The Indian skipper will be itching to leave a lasting impression on the series and history suggests that there’s no better venue than the Adelaide Oval for Kohli to do this.

He’s only played three matches at the ground, but has already scored three centuries there, two of which came in the run-loaded test in 2014. In that match, Kohli scored 115 and 141 – the latter of which came in the fourth innings – in a stunning performance. Kohli also showed no signs of weakness in his only day-night test to date, scoring a match-winning 136 as India romped to an innings victory inside three days.

With a strong history at the Adelaide Oval and a successful previous outing against the pink ball, Kohli will be vital to India’s chances of beginning the series strongly.

Marnus Labuschagne

After a breakout Summer of 2019/20, Labuschagne is firmly cemented at first drop in Australia’s XI.

Despite the regard in which he’s held by the Australian public, he’s only played one test match against India and will be aiming to continue the batting form he displayed last summer.

Labuschagne scored 896 runs in the 2019/20 season, making four centuries and three 50s along the way. He’ll be confident in his abilities against the pink ball, averaging 109 in his four day-night test innings to date.

These were, of course, highlighted by his 162 at the Adelaide Oval against Pakistan and 143 against New Zealand shortly after.

Despite a stronger and more formidable Indian bowling attack as the opposition this year, Labuschagne and Australia will be confident that his form of yesteryear will return and he can again make his mark with the bat. 

Cheteshwar Pujara

Pujara lead India to victory in their last test in Adelaide, with a superb knock of 123 on the first day of the match. He then followed that by scoring 71 in the second which anchored the innings for India and laid the platform for an eventual victory.

He was deservedly awarded player of the match for his efforts, this performance setting the tone for the rest of the series. Pujara was the thorn in Australia’s side for the Summer, the Aussie bowlers’ issue of ‘how to get Pujara out’ never really receiving an answer.

He’ll again be crucial to India as their batting anchor, allowing his middle-order teammates to score freely and without worry while also steadily accumulating runs as well. 

Mitchell Starc

Starc is one of the most mercurial cricketers in the world.

Many would suggest that he’s currently in a form slump, particularly when discussing his returns in the limited-overs matches. Irrespective, Starc will be preparing to have a huge impact in the first test of the series.

His record with the ball in day-night tests is incredible, and as he’s shown consistently in these matches for Australia, he’s at his most lethal with the pink ball. In 13 day-night test matches, Starc has taken 42 wickets at an average of 19.23, recording three five-wicket hauls and going wicket-less only once.

Starc proved his capabilities under lights in Adelaide last year, claiming 6/66 against Pakistan to tear through the batting order and propel Australia towards victory.

His record at the Adelaide Oval is also impeccable, averaging 18.44 with the ball in all his test matches at the ground, and 18 in day-night tests there. Of anything to resurrect Starc from his apparent form slump, a day-night test at the Adelaide Oval is certainly a great chance to do so.

Key Match-Up

Nathan Lyon vs Ravichandran Ashwin

Second only to Australia’s greatest-ever bowler Shane Warne for wickets at the venue, Lyon’s record at the Adelaide Oval speaks for itself. The off-spinner has the chance to overtake Warne in Thursday’s First Test, sitting 6 wickets behind in this category despite having played seven less matches.

Lyon’s 50 wickets at the venue have come largely in clusters, as he has recorded four five-wicket hauls at the venue. Two of these came in the 2014/15 Adelaide Test Match, Lyon recording 5/134 and 7/152 to lead Australia to an enthralling final-day victory. Lyon also took eight wickets in the last Australia vs India Adelaide Test, including a six-wicket bag in the third innings. 

Lyon has also proven that the pink ball can be a weapon for spin bowlers, his record in Australia’s recent day-night tests suggesting he’s again set to make an impact on the test match. In last Summer’s day-night test against Pakistan, Lyon took 5/69 in Pakistan’s second innings, leading Australia to an innings victory following David Warner’s historic triple-century.

Lyon has also returned match figures of 6/105, 4/105 and 3/78 in his other three day-night test matches at the Adelaide Oval.

While Ashwin doesn’t necessarily have the record at the Adelaide Oval to justify his importance in this match, Ashwin will undoubtedly be a key factor to his country’s success.

In the first test match of the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar test series, Ashwin recorded figures of 3/57 and 3/92, bowling a remarkable 86.5 overs to finish with an economy. of 1.72 for the match. His performance in the fourth innings of the was particularly important, taking the key top-order wickets of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja and wrapping up the game with the scalp of Josh Hazlewood to halt the Australians’ 32-run last wicket partnership. 

Ashwin be buoyed by Lyon’s previous success with the pink ball and will undoubtedly be seeking to replicate the form and impact of his Aussie counterpart. With the Adelaide Oval pitch known for its ability to become spin-friendly towards the end of a test match, this spinner-versus-spinner matchup is set to play a large part in the series opener.

Players to Watch

Cameron Green

Despite suffering a mild concussion in last week’s day-night tour match, Cam Green has been cleared to play in Thursday’s opening test.

At only 21 years of age, Green already has five first-class 100s to his name a stunning return for the young Victorian.

His 197 against a strong NSW bowling line-up in the Sheffield Shield in October thrust Green firmly into contention for a test debut, and having since scored 125* in the previous tour match, there’s little doubt that Green is one of the most in-form batsmen in the country. Add to this his ability to bowl in excess of 140 km/h, Green is set to be a mainstay of the Australian test team for years to come.

Prithvi Shaw

After scoring a century on test debut against the West Indies a few months prior, Shaw was set to make a big impression on the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar series before an untimely ankle injury ruled him out of all four test matches.

He’s since played another three matches and looks likely to open the batting for India alongside Mayank Agarwal. The 21-year-old has already scored nine first-class 100s and ten 50s, with a high score of 202 and an impressive average of 53.78.

In last week’s somewhat strange pink-ball tour match at the SCG, Shaw scored 40 from 29 balls, a glimpse into his destructive capabilities with the bat at the top of the order. He’ll be hoping to cement his place in India’s XI this series, though it’s hard to deny that he’s already one of India’s brightest young cricketers.

Who’s Missing?

Australia’s selection headaches appear to have been solved in the least convenient way possible, due largely to the injuries of opening batsmen David Warner and Will Pucovski. Prior to the One-Day International series, many would have been expecting that pair to open the batting for the Aussies in the first test.

Selectors will be hopeful that Warner will have recovered from his groin injury in time for the Boxing Day test, while every precaution will be taken with Pucovski given his history with concussion.

Ravindra Jadeja featured with bat and ball for India in the 2018/19 series, scoring 81 in the fourth and final test to go alongside the seven wickets he took in his two matches.

The concussion and hamstring injury Jadeja sustained in the first T20 are set to keep him sidelined for the first test, but he is expected to feature later in the series. Aside from his dynamic all-round prowess, Jadeja’s athleticism and fielding skill also bring great energy to the field for India. There’s no better display of this than his stunning outfield catch against New Zealand (see below) earlier this year, which highlights his ability to change the game for India, even without bat or ball in hand.

Predicted XIs

Australia

Matthew Wade, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

India

Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

The Fixture

First Test: December 17-21, Adelaide Oval, 3pm AEDT (day-night)

Second Test: December 26-30, MCG, 10.30am AEDT

Third Test: January 7-11, SCG, 10.30am AEDT

Fourth Test: January 15-19, Gabba, 11am AEDT

The Squads

Australia

Tim Paine (c), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner

India 

Virat Kohli (c) (first Test only), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj

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