Kohli vs Smith, Bumrah vs Hazlewood, Ashwin vs Lyon, and other key battles

How do the two squads square up against each other?

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
The top spot among Test batsmen has been a Steven Smith v Virat Kohli contest for a while

The top spot among Test batsmen has been a Steven Smith v Virat Kohli contest for a while  •  Getty Images

The eagerly anticipated Border-Gavaskar series is nearly here. India have prepared with two three-day games in Sydney, matches which have involved some of the Australia Test players, while the rest of the home side have been training in Adelaide. However, Australia's build-up has been far from serene, especially when it comes to who will open the batting. For India, they know there will only be one Test with Virat Kohli. So how do the two squads stack up?

Top order

Australia David Warner, Joe Burns, Marcus Harris, Will Pucovski, Marnus Labuschagne
India Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubham Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul
Warner's loss for Australia is huge. Coupled with Burns' woeful form there is a strong chance the home side go in with a makeshift opening pair. Agarwal is certain to play and spent useful time in the middle in Sydney. Gill is a superb talent but may not yet force his way past Shaw. For both sides, the No. 3 is shaping as pivotal with Justin Langer having confirmed Australia won't risk weakening a strength by moving Labuschagne to open. Two years ago, Pujara was the batting star of the series and with Kohli only around for one Test he may have to do it again.
Who wins? With Warner, Australia. Without him it's too close to call

Middle order

Australia Steven Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Moises Henriques
India Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma
There was no Smith vs Kohli two years ago and this time there will be just one Test of it before Kohli heads home. From a purely cricket point of view it's a massive shame. There is almost nothing to split them as, along with Kane Williamson, the finest of the current generation. The runs from the rest will be just as vital. Rahane has an excellent record overseas, averaging 44 in Australia, and is likely to captain from Melbourne onwards while last season it felt that Head was settling as a Test batsman. Wade is viewed as the most vulnerable although the opening issues may force a reshuffle. Green's potential debut is one of the more eagerly anticipated of recent times for Australia. Vihari played a useful role in the 2018-19 series and India may be bolstered by Rohit for the last two Tests.
Who wins? With Kohli, too close to call. Without him, Australia


Australia Tim Paine
India Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha
The comparisons here are slightly different because for Australia, Paine has the captaincy. His batting, often unfairly maligned, was not needed much last summer but he did play a very important hand against New Zealand at the MCG with one of his most assertive Test innings. Also scored a century in the Sheffield Shield earlier this year. Pant can be destructive in the middle order, as he showed in Sydney two years ago, especially if he has a foundation to build on. Do we need anymore babysitting banter? Probably not. Saha is a fantastic wicketkeeper, the best gloveman out of the three, but Pant is likely to be preferred.
Who wins? India, just

Pace bowlers

Australia Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Sean Abbott
India Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj
The two pace attacks could be the battle of the summer. It is just a shame that Ishant Sharma is missing for India because him in support of Bumrah and Shami makes a formidable trio, but Umesh should not be underestimated. Australia have the best collection of fast bowlers currently going around; whether the big three can play all four Tests remains to be seen but Pattinson is a handy first reserve and Neser would be deserving of a Test cap. Cummins and Hazlewood rarely bowl poor spells and Starc's Test mojo returned last summer.
Who wins? Australia, but watch out for Bumrah


Australia Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
India R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav
In so many ways Lyon is the key to how this Australia attack, and team, have been able to operate. He is two bowlers in one, able to support the quicks and then grab his chance to win a game. He and Ashwin are the two finest finger spinners in the game. For India, Ashwin also has a key role to play with the bat at No. 8 (as would Jadeja). Kuldeep took five wickets at the SCG on the last tour.
Who wins? Australia, but if Lyon was injured they would have a problem

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo