Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green were the first to hit the nets when Australia commenced their first session ahead of the third Test vs India. The pair had missed the first two Tests of the series due to injury concerns and are now available for selection. The visitors played the lone seamer Pat Cummins in the Delhi Test and with him missing the series due to his mother’s illness, Starc walks into the XI for the Indore Test starting March 1.
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The left-armer was very sharp in the hour-long hit and kept troubling Cameron Green with probing lines. The right-hander, who also missed the two Tests due to injury, will have work to do in that middle-order, and also possibly with the ball. With Travis Head more or less certain to open the innings, Green in all possibilities will replace Matt Renshaw, who has looked all over the place in the series so far.
Going by the session, Green too wasn’t in complete control. He was troubled by the channel just outside off and looked tentative when Starc moved around the wicket and started getting some reverse his way with the oldish ball. Expecting one to not tail back in, the right-hander shouldered arms to a Starc delivery and had his woodwork disturbed. If Starc kept probing him, Lance Morris, the seamer in the Australian squad, was at Green throughout the session with sharp lines and lengths.
There was a passage in the morning practice session where Morris looked sharper than Starc but it was a matter of time before the latter warmed up and fired on all cylinders. It was the around-the-wicket angle that was more effective and it could well be the ploy when he takes the field for the third Test of the series. Still, early days to read what went wrong for Green in that session but he was certainly going hard at every ball. Did nick quite a few spinners too in the process. Playing soft is key on these Indian surfaces but the little adjustment is the biggest difference these days.
“Scoring runs is not difficult on these pitches. These tracks are not unplayable. One has to trust the defence and pick the right shots. Shot selection is key,” KS Bharat said at the presser when he was asked about going about on these surfaces.
Sweep, sweep, sweep
Well, some are not ready to learn that lesson and as I mentioned in a couple of shows yesterday, Indore and Australia are a match made in heaven. Both just can’t stop sweeping. If it’s cleanliness on the city’s mind, the visitors feel it’s the only scoring shot vs spin. In the net adjacent to Green’s, opener Usman Khawaja swept, slog-swept, and reverse-swept. He was beaten on quite a few occasions, had the stumps rattled, miscued, and looked ugly on occasions but didn’t stop.
Batting in tandem with him was the skipper for this game Steve Smith. Smith had a different approach altogether and that approach is the reason why he has looked much better than his teammates on these testing surfaces. Yes, he didn’t look good during that wild sweep off Ashwin in the Delhi Test but that’s not likely to be repeated as he focused more on getting his footwork right.
He would step out, use the depth of the crease well, and didn’t look to go hard against the spinners. In the second half of the session, he would return with a lot of intent and deposited a few into the stands. Again, there was no slogging there. Proper cricketing shots where he took the chance against anything pitched up.
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Another batter who looked brutal against anything pitched up was Travis Head. The stumper has already made his intentions of going after the bowling clear and he looked very severe moment the spinners – net bowlers and Australian spinners – pitched anything up. India did receive a dose of that in the second innings of the Delhi Test but did make the quick adjustment the next morning to ensure not much damage was done. Lesson from the net: Don’t pitch anything up to Head.
The session ended with the players who started proceedings on a hottish day. Starc padded up for a batting session and got a nice little hit before the premises were vacated for the hosts – who were set to commence their training in the afternoon session.
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