Australia in India 2012-13 March 10, 2013

Australia hope for pace in Punjab

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Reasons for hope have been few and far between for the Australians during this tour of India. But the third Test in Mohali was always going to provide a glimmer. Last time a Test was played at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium was in 2010, when India beat Australia by one wicket. Mitchell Johnson took a five-for. So did Zaheer Khan. Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger were in the wickets. All up, 25 batsmen fell to pace over the course of the Test, and only 12 to spin.

Of course, a lot can change in two and a half years. Just ask Simon Katich, who was opening with Shane Watson during that Test. Or the first-choice spinner Nathan Hauritz. In fact, Clarke, Watson and Johnson are the only three men from that XI who are part of this squad. But after India's spinners claimed 20 wickets in Chennai and 14 in Hyderabad, any suggestion of a more pace-friendly surface will be welcomed by the Australians.

"I think it is the one place in India, or one of the few places in India, that is renowned for a bit of pace and bounce," the allrounder Moises Henriques, who has played limited-overs cricket at the venue, said. "But in comparison to wickets in Australia there still won't be the same amount that you get back home. But it's certainly one place where the quicks could come in and do a little bit more damage on."

The Australians trained at the ground on Sunday but the pitch square remained under cover in gloomy weather, with the possibility of rain during the day. It has been difficult for the Australian fast bowlers so far on the tour, although James Pattinson used his pace to collect six wickets in Chennai. Henriques was the fourth seamer in Chennai and the third in Hyderabad, and has managed only one wicket at 93.

"It has been tough. I feel like I've been bowling okay without really having that penetration to get through and take some wickets, which a lot of the seam bowlers have been struggling with over here," Henriques said. "I've got to not only be able to keep it tight as the allrounder and build pressure but somehow find a way to start taking some wickets as well. It is tough for the quicks over here but maybe we're not coming up with the right plans." However, Henriques was impressive with the bat with a pair of half-centuries on debut in Chennai, before he was bowled trying to play against the spin in the first innings in Hyderabad and then suffered an unfortunate run-out in the second innings. The struggles of Australia's batting line-up mean Henriques remains the second leading run scorer in the squad with 154 at 51.33, and the batsmen need to offer significantly more support to Michael Clarke, who has 268 runs at 67.

"Michael has been scoring a lot of runs for us and we need to chip in and take a lot of the pressure off Michael so he can play with a bit of freedom," Henriques said. "We do have the players to do it and after the first couple of Tests we're starting to learn more about the conditions over here. I think a lot of the ... playing XI hadn't played a lot of cricket over here, especially in five-day cricket. Although it was disappointing the first two Tests are a learning curve. We've just got to keep learning and getting better, that's all we can do at this stage."

A return to Mohali might also provide some pleasant memories for the vice-captain Watson, who has not scored a Test hundred since his 126 in the last Test at the venue in 2010. Clarke's decision to move up the order for this game could mean Watson is also bumped up to No.3, if the struggling Phillip Hughes is left out, but the batting line-up is far from the only decision Australia's selectors must make over the next few days.

Unless the pitch provides a surprise when it is uncovered, it is unlikely the Australians will again pick two spinners as they did in Hyderabad, meaning either Johnson or Mitchell Starc would likely be included. There is also the question of which spinner to play, with Xavier Doherty having struggled for impact until the end of India's innings in Hyderabad and Nathan Lyon having been axed to work on some technical issues after the first Test.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zenboomerang on March 12, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Its all a bit academic now about the pitch as we have a very limited bowling squad - 2 seamers & 2 spinners - with 2 allrounders... Moises will get a start as for nothing else he keeps one end tight & may contribute much needed runs... So that leaves Doherty as a likely starter with Lyon/Maxwell fighting for the last position... Smith will have to come it at no.5 as Watto's replacement... We'll just have to make do with what we've got...

  • dummy4fb on March 11, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    One thing I don't understand about you Aussies is your team selectors. Can someone explain to me why Simon Katich was dropped? Have you found a better opening batsman yet?

  • Meety on March 11, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    @ygkd on (March 10, 2013, 21:29 GMT) - I think of the players you named, only the first 3 have been treated unfairly - possibly throw in DHussey as well. I do believe that the India tour has NOT been given the due thought process required, they have not thought it out properly. I don't like Oz losing anything but given the greatest cricket team ever assembled struggled in India, I think these bys shouldn't be castigated too much. I do believe that Cowan should NOT of been selected for the tour of India, as he now really should be dropped, but I believe he would do well in England. We need to pick sides specifically for India, & I think DHussey would of been a good one off selection (despite crud Shield form) - which clearly doesn't always mean much to the NSP (Doherty as an example). I fully believe that Rogers must now be included in the tour squad & given first crack at the Poms.

  • Wefinishthis on March 11, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    ygkd - Agree completely, throw D.Hussey in that list too. Nampally - You should look the stats up first. 'haus took just 6 wickets in 4 innings at an appallingly bad average of 43.5. He is not accurate at all and is in fact one of the worst test bowlers to play for Australia in recent times and is a large factor in our fall from no.1 and ashes losses. He had an acceptable home series against India, but all of our bowlers played well that series as would anyone that could have been picked. Even a club level bowler could have played well against that touring India side. Haddin is an average wicket keeper and an even worse batsman (not to mention he's past his prime). Wade has already made a higher score than Haddin ever did in India and he's almost scored as many centuries at a higher average as well. Yes Wade's keeping still needs improving, but Haddin's 2 dropped regulation catches off Pattinson in his last series infuriated me. Haddin has NEVER passed 50 in India. He can't play spin.

  • TheBigBoodha on March 10, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    Even you don't beleive that, @SamRay. The conditions on the first session of that test were markedly different from the rest of the game, a little grass, along with high humidity. The humidity dropped to 20% on day 2. That's why the ball was moving around so much off the pitch and in the air during early day 1. If Kumar is so good, why did the Indians barely bowl him in the second innings? Because the pitch was as dead as a doornail for pacers, that's why, and the humidity was low. Warner would have eaten him for lunch.

  • TheBigBoodha on March 10, 2013, 23:18 GMT

    How naive. The pitch preparation policy of the Indians was made very public by the curator after the first test. Why would it suddenly change now? The climatic factors might vary, but what you will get is the extreme end of the naturally occurring conditions. Manufactured for optimal results. Every time.

  • ygkd on March 10, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    In that regard, should we need a South African (apologies if @Beertjie is not a Saffer) to tell us a few home truths? No doubt quite a few Indians also think we've lost the plot. The English certainly do. We have to face facts. We haven't learnt much from our spin cycle and mis-handling of Hauritz, Krejza, White, McGain and all the other spinners. We can't keep picking a keeper on first-dig batting alone. We can't keep rotating pacemen in and out of the Test team, while ignoring the alternative of separation of short- and long-form teams as a resting process. We can't keep picking all-rounders who can't hold a place for either skill. We can't keep pretending number one test spot is close. The process of selection is never easy, yet we shouldn't make it harder than it need be, by sidelining experienced players who haven't done much wrong other than falling out of favour. There have always been such players, but at no time can I remember them ever amounting to a whole alternative XI.

  • ygkd on March 10, 2013, 21:29 GMT

    Australia will probably pick the team for Mohali that they think best for seam and swing. In England. We seem to be so obsessed with the Ashes that we have not given India its due. Now, I couldn't really care less if Australia loses both series to nil. But I do believe in speaking up about unfairness. In recent years, the likes of Rogers, Hodge, O'Keefe, Paine, Hartley, McDonald, Starc, Lyon, Ferguson & Khawaja, to name a few, have not been handled well. Others appear to be heading for the same treatment. Cricket is not like soccer. For most soccer players, playing for your country is a sideline. In cricket, it is the main deal. Rotating cricketers in and out, leaving them out for lesser alternatives and dumping them at the wrong time kills their careers. While selecting sides is a difficult and thankless task, selecting an over-sized test squad for India with only one keeper, and that probably the least proficient state gloveman in the land, does not engender a sense of confidence.

  • S.Anand on March 10, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    India should not be complacent after their 2 wins. They should not show anything like lazyness or fatigue on the field as the Australians will be really hard and the conditions will suit them. The whole Indian team have to be really tough like the old Australian team or the current English team. I know that it is not very easy to win the next 2 matches but you have to be mentally and physically strong to have a clean sweep. Micheal Clarke & co will defintely bounce back to settle the score but do your hard work than the first 2 matches and go extra mile to achieve the same result..all the best to both teams..

  • Camberwellcarrot1979 on March 10, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    If Hughes and Cowan play, it will be proof that they have photos of Micky Arthur naked or something similar. They haven't got the talent, technique or guts for Test cricket.

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