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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
February 27, 2013
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 hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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