Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney

Australia start New Year on note of stability

Daniel Brettig in Sydney

January 2, 2012

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Ryan Harris is pumped up after dismissing AB de Villiers, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, November 10, 2011
Ryan Harris will have to wait for his Test return © AFP
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To follow a year of swings and roundabouts, Australia have chosen to begin 2012 on a note of recently uncommon stability. The same team that swarmed on India in Melbourne has been asked to repeat the trick in Sydney, on a ground the visitors have always found to be friendly to their batsmen, even if the centuries of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman have not been enough to deliver a victory.

Australia's captain Michael Clarke followed his announcement that Ryan Harris would carry the drinks, leaving Nathan Lyon to weave his web around spin conversant batsmen, with a note of caution about consistency. He had delivered similar words in the aftermath of the MCG victory, and as a captain yet to win more than one Test in a series, the message is a vital one.

"Consistency is obviously very important for us and I've said before this series that we've played some really positive cricket at times and some cricket we'd like to forget," Clarke said. "I guess this is another test of our character to be able to back up after such an impressive win in Melbourne. It's important our preparation has been just as good, which is a big part for our team improving our consistency - making sure we're doing the hard work whether we have success on the field or not.

"I've been really happy with the way the guys have trained over the last two days so our preparation has been spot on. Now it's about the same commitment, the same determination and the same execution, we have to be able to execute our skills again like we did in Melbourne to beat this Indian team."

Sporting pitches have played some part in Australia's fluctuating performances. Having raised their games admirably to defeat Sri Lanka on a tinder-dry Galle pitch, the Australians then slipped up badly in Cape Town, and were similarly confounded in Hobart against New Zealand. Clarke pointed to these surfaces as reasons, though not excuses.

"I think it's a mixture of things, I think conditions have played a big part," Clarke said. "There's no coincidence in Cape Town, South Africa were 9 for 47 we were all out for 47, Hobart not many runs were scored from both teams, throughout the Melbourne Test we rolled India for 150-odd in the second innings. So there's been seam and swing consistently in the last half a dozen Test matches we've played - it's not an excuse but it's a reality, it's there.

"I think we're learning from it, I think our techniques we're working on our techniques at training, we're working on our techniques at training we're working on batting in tough conditions at training, as you guys see all the bowlers are using either brand new balls or reverse swinging balls and it's a real challenge at training. When you've played, like a lot of guys have, so much cricket over such a long period of time it's hard to change your technique, you can certainly improve little parts of it but it's hard to really change, so it's just about trying to do your best in fighting conditions I guess."

Such conditions may again be glimpsed on day one in Sydney, on the same pitch used for last year's Ashes match. The first day had the ball swinging and seaming alarmingly at times, Clarke winning the toss as the then stand-in for Ricky Ponting and battling for traction against England's crack bowling quartet.

"I think there's going to be enough in the wicket," Clarke said. "There's a tinge of green there, it's a little bit tacky at the moment I think it's going to be quite tough to bat on day one but the sun shine yesterday, today and tomorrow's forecast obviously helps, but I think it's going to be quite a similar wicket to what we faced against England last year. I think there's going to be a bit of sideways movement early and I think it's going to turn out to be a really good batting wicket."

James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus formed a powerful fast bowling union in Melbourne, using intelligence and aggression in equal measure to keep the Indians uncomfortable. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were chief contributors to India's ascent to No. 1 in the world, and have been equally important to the subsequent decline, their returns petering out in 2011.

"Hopefully they continue not scoring too many runs, they're two very good players," Clarke said. "It's the game, your time comes around, you score runs, you don't score runs, good form, bad form it's just the game, they're two class players and we'd love for them to continue not scoring too many runs in this series, but if they do they're class players and it won't surprise anybody if they do.

"We have plans to every Indian batsman and we will continue to look at footage of them and improve those plans but I think we stuck to our guns well in Melbourne and that worked well for us so hopefully it won't be any different in this Test match."

Pattinson has the capacity and the desire to be Australia's speed spearhead for some years to come, possessing the sort of confident, prickly visage that his forebears used so well to torment opposing batsmen between the ears as well as the wickets. Clarke expressed quiet hope that Pattinson would go on from his imposing start, but also spoke of the depth of bowling that would help him.

"I hope so, again I think Patto's only just starting, he's a wonderful talent, don't get me wrong, I'd hate to see us put extra pressure on him, he's got a good crew around him as well, let's not forget that," Clarke said. "Patto's got the results over the last few Test matches, but with the way Sids has been bowling, Ryan Harris over the last couple of years, Hilfy the other day even Pat Cummins when he came in in South Africa I think we're building a good crew of fast bowlers.

"They're all as vital as each other, I don't think there's one in my opinion who is above the rest, they've all got a lot of talent and we're going to need every single one of them to continue to perform for us to continue to go forward in Test cricket."

At the other end of the scale from Pattinson is Ponting, who played two valuable innings in Melbourne though again falling short of three figures. Amid all the hubbub about Sachin Tendulkar, it has not been forgotten by Clarke and his team that a Ponting century would be met with similar enthusiasm.

"I think the way Punter is batting at the moment is he's not far away from a big one, that's for sure," Clarke said. "One thing I know about him is if he gets to 100 he won't be stopping there, so he's got a very good record at the SCG, I know he loves playing here at this wicket so it wouldn't surprise me at all if he walked out and made a hundred in this Test match."

Like an unchanged and settled team, a Ponting century was almost unheard of in 2011. Australia have every right to expect more in 2012.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by phoenixsteve on (January 2, 2012, 21:56 GMT)

An Indian victory in this one will be a HUGE surprise to all informed followers of test cricket! Anything is possible though - that's the beauty of cricket! In many ways a thorough 'thrashing' by Australia will probably be the best thing that can happen to Indian cricket. 'Strange' - I hear readers say but honestly Indian cricket is a very sick puppy. Radical changes need to be enforced and this will only happen following even more Indian humiliation? It would be such a shame to see millions of enthusiastic fans so disappointed that cricket itself could suffer? Change has to come for India and the BCCI needs to prioritise in nurturing new talent. The players must be out there... but the current side are confused and torn between test match technique and the more familiar ODI 'thrash and hope' technique. Add to the mix some pretty toothless pace bowling and the future looks grim. India are too good to be relagated to joke status and this is the danger unless things change? Go Australia!

Posted by GreenTeam-Elite on (January 2, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

Well I always love to Watch Australian Players whether it's their Batting, Bowling or Fielding!!! After Home Side Pakistan my Favorite team is Australia. Hope this time again Australia will Rock the Sydney Test!!! My Well Wishes with Australia Hope 2012 will Good enough for U Guys!!!

Posted by hhillbumper on (January 2, 2012, 17:51 GMT)

Shame Mitch Johnson is injured.I love hearing from fans on here how he is one of the all time greats.It does not say much for your bowling stocks if you are relying on a 32 year old for new blood.

Posted by naveenpnayak on (January 2, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

Really clarke has lost his nuts.. Everyone on the earth knows that the Indians are the better players of spinners.. atleast they would face no problem in facing a B Grade spinner like Lyon.. Harris should have been selected in place of him.. I wont even be surprised to see Aussie loose this match just bcoz of this selection.

Posted by SriramK0503 on (January 2, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

I think Clarke selects a team sort of gamble alike.I feel choosing Lyon over Harris is absolutely crucial.Harris has got a huge talent and great swing over the ball as we saw in the last couple of series he had played,One major problem that persists in the Australian squad in the recent years is they do not have a quality all-rounder apart from Watson.My view of Australian squad for tomorrow's match would be David Warner,Shaun Marsh,R ponting,M.Clarke,M hussey,D.christian,Brad Haddin,p siddle,N Lyon,Pattinson,Ben hilfenhaus.I want to say finally if they do not want an extra quick tomorrow better pick up an all-rounder christian for the safer side.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

Listen to the roar from SCG crowd when either of the greatest player in these sides score a century. Hopefully i will not miss that delivery.

Posted by aa61761 on (January 2, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

Spinners don't succeed against India unless they are from Pakistan or their name is Murli. In last 25 years only Pakistani spinners have taken wickets against India successfully or Murli was successful. Even Warne failed against India. Lyon will fail again. Australia should have gone with 4 fast bowlers.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2012, 13:18 GMT)

India need the discipline and bullheadedness displayed by Australia in Melbourne. In Melbourne it was not talent which one- it was grit and discipline. I think, Gambhir needs to look at the footage of Sauravs 144 at Brisbane in 2004. The erstwhile Indian Captain didnt have the technique, but had the grit to grind out the opposition. In a lot of ways, Gambhir is a more complete and tighter player than Saurav, if not as talented. There is no reason to believe that he cannot turn it around. A pep talk is needed. Dravid, Sachin and VVS need no advice and they are certain to find form here sooner than later. Lets bring in Rohit Sharma. This is not a vote of no confidence for Virat- he is very good. But Rohit's style is more suited to these conditions. He plays the short ball better, and he is in a rich vein of form- remember he has scored tonnes of domestic runs recently. The bowling has been good. I would like to see Ishant Sharma having a little more luck. In Melbourne he was India's best

Posted by AidanFX on (January 2, 2012, 12:20 GMT)

@ TheLoneStranger - for a short while in the second innings Aus bowlers over did the short ball - but they soon put that behind - its more something the bowlers do rather than Clarke edging them on - male egos. If they make it a regular tactic I wouldn't be happy. The Indian bowlers were doing the same thing - Watch Khan - he is a protagonist.

Posted by TheLoneStranger on (January 2, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

Predictably conservative selections, but with a dash of Labor incompetence. Katich should be returned to the team in Marsh's place. It's anybody's guess what will happen when Watson is fit again. While ever Huss and Punter retain form (now that they've been given "mentor" status!), I guess they should be given a bit longer. Harris should be in the eleven IF fully fit. If the pitch looks like taking spin at some stage........remember Clarke??? And there's also Warner, now. That would mean Lyon would miss out, but he would return when appropriate. Finally, I was disgusted at the headlines advocating bouncing India's tail-enders, with Clarke seemingly egging his bowlers on. Helmets or no helmets, if a good bowler can't dismiss a tail-ender with a good ball, he shouldn't be playing the game! Clarke is simply perpetuating the bully-boy image of the Aussie cricket team with this attitude.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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