Australia in India 2012-13 February 27, 2013

Five lessons from Chennai

Three days between Tests does not give Australia long to digest their eight-wicket loss in Chennai but there are several lessons they can take from that match

A leaking spinner is of little value
Bowling spin successfully in India is about many things: subtle variations, finding the right pace and using the rough to create doubt in the batsman's mind. They are all factors in keeping the pressure up and the runs down, which Nathan Lyon struggled to do in Chennai. Over the course of the Test, Lyon gave up 132 runs in boundaries, the same number as James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc combined. And he did it bowling 33.1 fewer overs than the three fast men. He was also milked for 74 singles, almost as many as the three quicks (83). It may seem incongruous, but Lyon was simultaneously too predictable and too inconsistent. There were too many short balls and low full tosses, and when he hit the right length he lacked flight and variations in pace. Lyon does not need to attempt doosras and other tricks but he does need to find ways to subtly deceive the batsmen. That will not only increase his chances of getting wickets but reduce the likelihood of another unwanted double-century. It is also worth noting that in the tour match against India A, Lyon was more economical than Xavier Doherty.

Quality pace has its place
One of the real positives to come from the Test for Australia was the work of James Pattinson, who finished with match figures of 6 for 109. He was quick - in the 150kph region in the first innings - and accurate and built the pressure from his end. Unfortunately for Australia, Pattinson didn't have the wicket-taking support he needed from the fast men at the other end. Peter Siddle's only wicket of the game came with a slower ball and Mitchell Starc was barely a threat. There was no seam movement on the Chennai pitch and not as much reverse swing as Australia had hoped for, meaning the bowlers had to find other ways of challenging the batsmen. Pattinson did so with his speed and a consistent line just outside off stump. Starc was much more erratic, trying too many things and releasing the pressure on the batsmen. His place might go to Mitchell Johnson, who is on his third Test tour of India. In six Tests in India Johnson has 21 wickets at 37.23, an average that at home would be unacceptable but in these conditions looks pretty decent. Whoever is picked, Pattinson has shown them what can be achieved through speed and consistency on an unhelpful pitch.

A handy 30 is not enough
In the lead-up to the Test, Michael Clarke made a point of saying that batsmen who got a start on the Indian pitches and failed to turn it into a big score would be more accountable than those who fell cheaply. "It is a really difficult place to start, especially against spin or walking in against the reverse-swinging ball," Clarke said at the time. "So the guys who get a start, it's up to them to take the team forward and keep running with that momentum." Fittingly, given his comments, MS Dhoni's 224 from 265 balls was the difference between the two sides. It was notable that after Clarke drove a catch down the throat of long-off on 130 in the first innings, he shook his head and chastised himself as he walked off the field. He knew that an even bigger innings was there for the taking. But really it was the middling scores that cost Australia. Ed Cowan made 29 and 32, Shane Watson made 28 and 17, David Warner scored 59 and 23 - had any of those men capitalised on their starts it could have been a different game.

Moises-like poise is priceless
It's remarkable how often players get promoted based on past successes or potential rather than current form. But the selectors got it right with Moises Henriques in Chennai. This Sheffield Shield season he has made 385 runs at 77.00 and taken 14 wickets at 18.00. In his last Shield game before flying to India he scored 71 and then in the warm-up games he contributed with both bat and ball. A confident Henriques showed supreme poise in making 149 while getting out only once on Test debut. He never looked ruffled and he handled the spin in his own way, often playing deep and watching it off the pitch, but without getting caught on the crease. His concentration was immense but it was not all about defence and he put away the bad balls when they arrived. The rest of Australia's top order can learn from their newest team-mate, who showed how R Ashwin and Co should be handled.

India are beatable
That might sound strange given the eight-wicket defeat Australia suffered. But for the first eight sessions of the match, and then the last two, it was an even contest. But from tea on day three until tea on day four India got away, first through MS Dhoni and then their spinners. Three bad sessions cost Australia the game. Had Australia held a few difficult chances or won a couple of line-ball lbw decisions, the outcome could have been very different. If Australia can learn from their mistakes and stay sharp for the full five days, the remaining three Tests of this series won't be a walk in the park for India.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dale on March 1, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    @Shaggy You are right Khawaja is untested with Spin. However he has a sound technique and good footwork, two very important factors in playing spin. Hughes is a lot more unorthodox which might make him vulnerable. Though i think it's far too quick to jump on hughes, one of his innings was ended by an unplayable ball produced by a clay pitch. Give him a decent run and a chance to prove himself.

  • RAJARAMAN on March 1, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    Brydon .. if Clarke was adjudged out correctly of bat-pad very early in his innings ... Aus would have been bundled even more cheaply ... so ... India were true winners in Chennai ... accept it

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    There are no mysteries. There are blatant deficiencies in both teams. The team which handles the deficiencies better will be the winner

  • Graham on March 1, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    raulraj - Id like to know what about Khawaja record indicates he is good against spinners. There are no innings on spinning pitches of any note. Its an assumption he can play probably based on his background. The truth is Khawaja is as much an unknown against spin as Hughes, least Hughes has some experience now to learn from. Dont get me wrong Khawaja is going to be a good player however, I very much doubt he will succeed in the environment of India.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    The big lesson Australian batsmen need to learn is the ball pitching on leg stump can straighten and get them out lbw. Too many players, left handers mainly, put their pad in line and tried to hit the ball through midwicket. They need to get their front foot outside the line and hit the ball to midon, like the Indians did. Also Australia benefited from the non-dismissal of Clarke lbw, but Dhoni was lucky to escape Pattinson's slower ball on 93. On balance India got off slightly ahead on that one, but probably not much difference in the result. My theory on winning in India is to take up as much time batting on the wicket when it is at its best (more important on the sub continent than other areas). The best example of this was Steve Waugh enforcing the follow on in 2001. If Australia had batted and India batted fourth, it was game over.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Australia will definitely make at least two changes. Dropping Hughes and Starc and will bring in Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson. I do not know whether they could earn much bringing a second spinner. However, if they still wants to have another spin option then they could drop Cowan and bring in Maxwell but I doubt that he could do a lot in Indian pitches. Whatever the case may be, the Australians have the will power to bounce back from any condition and am sure the second test will be totally different. You will see Watson and Warner performing. Ofcourse, Michael Clarke is always reliable.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Aussies were more defensive against the spinners that led india to put in more close fielders ..they shud try and attack the spinners and remove the close in fielders to score freely........

  • raul on March 1, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    Australia needs to balance their team...i am a Indian team supporter but my Australian team for next match will be:: 1) Warner 2) Watson 3) Clark 4) Khawaja 5) Moises 6) Wade 7) Maxwell 8) M.Johnson 9) Lyon 10) Starc 11) Pattison. This way they have attacking openers both of them. Khawja Clark and Moises can play spinners, so strong middle order. Wade Maxwell and Johnson Make never ending tail. 4 Fast Bowlers including Moises Medium Pace, Which Australian Management wants anyway. Lyon Clark Maxwell and Warner Make it 4 Spinners Which will Test Indian batting. Some might argue but Johnson has experience of bowling in India and he is better batsman then most bowlers. Maxwell can do what gilcrist use to do for Oz's at 6 or 7. This is best team for indian pitches. Peace

  • Graham on March 1, 2013, 4:22 GMT

    hycIass - you think there is an issue with not blooding Faulkner, COulter-Nile and Cutting in the series against Sri Lanka. My question is who should have missed out to do that. The problem with our quicks being injured is not a huge issue as there is as many as 10 capable of doing the job. They will get a game when they are in the best available but for the moment they are behind Pattinson, Siddle, Starc, Johnson, Bird, Hilfenhaus and Harris. Then as well as the three you mentioned there is also Hazlewood, Sayers, Bollinger, Butterworth, Mcdermott. Even the likes of Putland can do a job as well. We have heaps of quicks and it would have done more harm than good promoting players currently not in the best side.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    My points: - For Starc to be useful, he needs to bowl flat-out like he does in one-dayers and to help accommodate that, be used in shorter spells. I understand different balls are used, but there's a tremendous difference in his speeds between one dayers (145-150km) and tests (135-140km or so). - Clarke should bat at 3. Since India are really only using spinners, he won't have to worry about early swing like he seems to and this should correct our current problem of having four openers for a top order. - I don't rate Doherty's selection given his first-class career and current shield form, but perhaps he would prove handy to simply tie up one end and allow another bowler to attack. Half of bowling is in partnerships after all. - Oh and don't let a guy come in and basically hit boundaries every single ball.

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