Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney January 2, 2012

India's batsmen hope for SCG magic


Match facts

Tuesday, January 3
Start time 1030 (2330 GMT)

Big Picture

Australia. India. The SCG. Four years ago, those three elements together sparked one of the most controversial Tests in recent history. It was a match of umpiring blunders, a racism allegation, excessive appealing and ugly behaviour all round. Fortunately for the integrity of this upcoming contest, several of the key protagonists are gone. Andrew Symonds has retired. Harbhajan Singh is no longer considered one of India's two best spinners. Both of the umpires, who struggled to maintain control on the field, have stepped down from international cricket.

It was also a Test that went down to the wire, finishing late on the fifth day, as the shadows grew longer over the Sydney Cricket Ground. The fans will hope for a similarly tight finale this time around, albeit without the argy-bargy and ill feeling between the two teams. A memorable contest would be fitting, for this is the 100th Test to be played at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground. Only Lord's and the MCG have hosted more Tests.

This time, the teams head to Sydney with Australia 1-0 up in the series, having won inside four days in Melbourne. India's batsmen were the major disappointment in the Boxing Day Test. Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar all made 60s or 70s in the first innings but in the second, Tendulkar's 32 was the best score. Chasing 292, that was vastly inadequate. Australia's strong and consistent pace attack built pressure and the Indians could not show the skills that had earned them more than 53,000 Test runs collectively over their Test careers.

There is more of a chance of India's batsmen enjoying the SCG. Sachin Tendulkar's Test record at the venue makes for imposing reading. In four Sydney Tests, he has made 148*, 45, 4, 241*, 60*, 154* and 12. VVS Laxman's Sydney efforts have been just as impressive: 7, 167, 178, 109, 20. But they and their colleagues will need to show significant improvements after last week if they are to level the series.

Form guide (most recent first)

Australia: WLWWL
India: LDWWL

Players to watch out for...

This time last year, Nathan Lyon had not played for his state in any format. Now he is a veteran of eight Tests. In a year full of impressive debuts by Australian cricketers, his is the most remarkable story. The Adelaide Oval groundsman who was asked by the state coach to bowl in the nets, Lyon has shown every club cricketer that there is hope. All you need is an opportunity. He wasn't a key part of the attack in Melbourne, where the fast men dominated, but at the SCG, particularly later in the Test, he could be asked to bowl a lot of overs of offspin. Incredibly, Lyon has not played a first-class match at the SCG, traditionally the best venue for spin in Australia.

To watch Sachin Tendulkar upper-cut Peter Siddle over the head of the slips for six off the first ball after tea on the second day at the MCG was a sight to behold. Tendulkar played brilliantly in that innings and it was impossible not to anticipate his hundredth international hundred. Siddle ended that dream in the last over of the day by bowling Tendulkar for 73. It would perhaps be even more fitting if Tendulkar were able to reach his milestone in the 100th Sydney Test. He is the master of the SCG, and the only grounds around the world where he has a higher Test average are in Bangladesh.

Team news

Australia included Ryan Harris in the 12-man squad at the expense of Daniel Christian and Mitchell Starc, neither of whom made the starting line-up in Melbourne. However, the selectors chose to use the same XI as at the MCG, with Harris more likely for the third Test in Perth, where Australia might consider a four-man pace attack.

Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.

India's batting was a problem in Melbourne, so they might consider including Rohit Sharma at the expense of Virat Kohli. Should Rohit play it will be his Test debut but he will bring plenty of international experience - he has played 72 ODIs and 22 Twenty20s for India.

India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Virat Kohli / Rohit Sharma, 7 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav.

Pitch and conditions

The SCG pitch has traditionally not bounced as much as other Australian surfaces, perhaps one of the reasons it has been appreciated by India's batsmen. But that character has changed, and the curator Tom Parker expects a similar pitch to that on which England's swing and seam bowlers set up an innings victory last summer. It is worth noting, though, that in that Test England's batsmen scored 644.

"In the last few years I think the Sydney pitch has changed texture from when it used to be a real dust bowl and really helped the spinners," Michael Hussey said on Sunday. "The last few years it has been really seamer friendly and particularly tough for batting, especially early in the match. It definitely looks a lighter colour. Generally that's the way it has gone over the years, it has slowed down a little bit and helped the spinners."

The forecast for the first day is sunny and 28C, while there could be the chance of storms and showers over the next three days of the Test.

Stats and trivia

  • Sachin Tendulkar has the highest average of all Test cricketers at the SCG. In four Tests there he averages 221.33
  • VVS Laxman averages 96.20 at the SCG, a far cry from the 14.25 he averages at the MCG
  • The changes in Australia's team from this time last year have been stark: only five men who played in the SCG Ashes loss are in the side for this Test
  • The only team to have beaten Australia in Sydney Tests in the past 15 years was England, who did it in 2003 and 2011


"I am a bit nervous because the stars seem to be aligning with Sachin needing one more hundred in the 100th Test match in Sydney. He's made runs here before. It's a bit ominous."
Michael Hussey is wary of the elusive milestone on everyone's mind

"Well, he's always close to a milestone. If you see his career in the last three years, whatever he has done, somehow he has been very close to a milestone, whether he's playing the most number of ODIs or Test matches or the 100th hundred or all the things."
MS Dhoni believes Sachin Tendulkar is under no pressure since getting to milestones is second nature to him

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • yogi on January 3, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    178/8. day one tea. Another brick in the wall. Hey Aussies leave us Indian batsman alone.

  • A on January 3, 2012, 0:20 GMT

    Dropping like fireflies now.

  • A on January 2, 2012, 23:30 GMT

    getting a strong feeling the Aussies are going 2-0 up at the SCG.

  • A on January 2, 2012, 23:28 GMT

    The most hyped team in the world. If they could not post a good total in the first innings and got bowled out at 169 with half the team not getting past 10 runs, then its a dream they win anything. This series is about to become a nightmare if they dont pick up and get cracking. The Indian team has to play no excuses cricket period. If the top batsmen cannot even put on a good score then they have a lot of soul searching to do.

  • Karl on January 2, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    The opening paragraph was interesting "It was a match of umpiring blunders, a racism allegation, excessive appealing and ugly behaviour all round. " There has been a major failing by the ICC to eliminate these issues - by using DRS - you would have the chance to eliminate all but one of these problems. In series where DRS has been used there is no need to appeal loudly as you have recourse in the review process this also leads to potential reduction in simmering between players/umpires leading to ugly behaviour...

  • Cameron on January 2, 2012, 22:38 GMT

    There is a lot of pessimism here from the Indian fans. I don't think that you should be too disheartened. What test cricket has shown this year, and the Australians in particuliar, is that it is possible to make a few small improvements between matches and radically change the outcome. Of course the converse is also true. Even though many Indian fans will not give them credit for it the Australians bowled extremely well at the MCG. It was far and away the best I have seen both Siddle and Hilfenhaus bowl at test level and Pattinson continued on in his extremely promising way. But there is every chance that the same bowlers will not quite be able to replicate that at the SCG and with a favourable batting wicket the Indian batsmen could come into their own. I think both teams at times batted well at the MCG but also batted very poorly. The dismissals of Marsh and Warner in the second innings demonstrated both poor technique and a complete lack of discipline.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 22:33 GMT

    As Sachin's figures on SCG.............. I am damn sure, he won't let this oppotunity miss from his hands to score a Tonner............All the Best SRT-10......!!!

  • Hiren on January 2, 2012, 22:31 GMT

    it will be Australia all the way. @5wombats, dead right mate. On paper, India does have a great line up made up of past achievements, but the reality of now is they arent good enough to score 300 runs in a given innings. Australia will go up 2-0...

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 22:29 GMT

    We collectively are responsible for all the pressure we put on Sachin. Let him play the Sydney Test with all the freedom and with all peace of mind. If there are few we need to focus on are Gambhir and Seshwag. A good start is key to winning a test match as much as a bad start is key to losing it. So request all please send your message and comments to Sehwag and Gambhir. They will carry the hopes of 120 billion us Indians. We need to win the series down under

  • kashif on January 2, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    India will lose again and hopefully Tendulkar gets golden duck.

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