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India and Australia batsmen steel for testing time at 'new' Perth

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'We want to make Kohli work hard for every run' - Paine (2:42)

Paine says Australia will draw strength from their tactics to Kohli in the first Test, where they kept him subdued (2:42)

Big Picture

In cricketing lexicon, Perth has been synonymous with pace and bounce for the last five decades. A fiery surface with cracks so wide you could insert a whole finger, or lose a key, the WACA ground offered visiting batsmen their sternest test even if its liveliest days had been left in the past. On Friday, though, when the city hosts India for the second Test of the four-match series, the venue will not be the same.

On the other side of the Swan River, a brand new Perth Stadium will welcome both sides for its debut Test. A drop-in pitch is expected to recreate the pace and bounce akin to the old stadium, with the curator calling it the "the bounciest possible" track.

After their victory in Adelaide, India should be the more confident of the two sides. One big reason is they have a pace attack which can match the opposition in all conditions. Another key factor is the Adelaide win came without a significant contribution from Virat Kohli's bat. There was a crucial 34 in the second innings, but it was Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane who helped India keep their noses ahead. However, injuries to Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin might have dampened their spirits a bit.

Australia started 2018 by winning the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney and then beating South Africa comprehensively in Durban, but since then hardly anything has gone right for them. While they earned a hard-fought draw against Pakistan in Dubai, and even in the first Test of this series were never out of the game, those two remain their only Test wins so far this year.

Though Mitchell Starc looked below par in Adelaide, he did pick up five wickets in the Test. Australia have their first-choice pace attack and their most-successful offspinner to back them up, but with India's bowling attack being equally strong, the onus to make a difference lies with their batsmen. There was 72 from Travis Head in the first innings in Adelaide, and 60 from Shaun Marsh in the second, but the expectations would be to go on and convert those into big hundreds.

Form guide

Australia LLDLL (last five Tests, most recent first)
India WWWLL

In the spotlight

With just 12 wickets in his last five Tests at an average of 48.66 and a strike rate of 91.42, Mitchell Starc hasn't been at his penetrative best. Australia understand how important Starc's form is if they want to pull things back, and that's why he was the only one from their first-choice pace trio to hit nets on Wednesday. However, the Perth wicket is expected to offer bounce, and given the pace Starc possesses, he should create problems if manages to hit the right line and length.

Before coming to Australia, KL Rahul's last nine dismissals in Test cricket were either bowled or lbw. While he has avoided those modes so far on this tour, his shot selection has been far from admirable. His dismissal in the first innings of India's only practice game - driving on the up and finding mid-off - forced batting coach Sanjay Bangar to ask him to play responsibly. Although he scored an important 44 in the second innings in Adelaide, he was out playing loose shots outside off in both innings. With Prithvi Shaw making promising progress in his recovery from an ankle injury, Rahul may need a few runs to secure his spot.

Team news

Despite Aaron Finch's twin failure and a 31-run defeat in the first Test, Australia have named an unchanged XI which means Mitchell Marsh again sits out.

Australia 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Marcus Harris, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Travis Head, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Injuries to Rohit, who jarred his lower back while fielding during the first Test, and Ashwin, out with an abdominal strain, have forced India to alter their winning combination. While Ravindra Jadeja can bowl tirelessly from one end so that the quicks can be rotated from the other - a role Ashwin played in Adelaide - the prospect an all-pace attack cannot be ruled out.

India (probable) 1 M Vijay, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt) 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

On the eve of the game, both pitch and outfield were almost the same colour - lush green. But this was before the final shave and while there is a promise of pace and bounce, only time will tell how the wicket actually behaves. There has only been one first-class match at the venue. The first day of the match is expected to be the hottest, with the temperature peaking at 36C. Therefore, it won't be a surprise if the captain winning the toss opts to bat first, which a) has been a successful ploy recently, and b) will give the bowlers an extra day of rest.

Stats and trivia

  • So far in 2018, India's fast bowlers have a combined strike rate of 47.3 in Test cricket -- their best-ever in a calendar year.

  • Mitchell Starc is nine wickets away from becoming the 17th Australia bowler to reach 200 Test wickets.

  • KL Rahul needs 106 runs more to complete 2000 runs in Test cricket.

  • Perth Stadium will become the tenth Australian venue to host a Test.

Quotes

"There's only been a few games played here so it's a bit of an unknown, it looks a little bit green but feels pretty firm underneath and I think it'll actually play pretty well for the first couple of days. But I'm no expert and I could be completely wrong."
Tim Paine on a fairly unknown 22 yards

"We certainly get more excited than nervous looking at lively pitches now. We understand that we do have a bowling attack which can bowl the opposition out as much as they are convinced about their attack."
India captain Virat Kohli was upbeat about his fast-bowling battery