Top-ranked Australia are plotting revenge in their first day-night Test against fellow powerhouse India starting Thursday, as both teams grapple with injuries and selection dilemmas. Virat Kohli’s men clinched their maiden series in Australia in 2018-19, triumphing 2-1, but the hosts were without leading batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner who were serving year-long bans for ball-tampering. Smith, the world’s number one batsman, is back and in form, despite the fact that in a massive blow Warner has been ruled out of the opening Test with a groin injury.
“It is a great rivalry… bring it on,” Australia coach Justin Langer said Tuesday ahead of day one at Adelaide Oval, where more than 20,000 fans — 50 percent capacity, because of coronavirus restrictions — are expected.
“We have a very senior team now and can’t wait to receive the show on the street.”
Despite losing the final series, Australia head into the four-Test showdown, where the Border-Gavaskar trophy and ICC World Test Championship points are at stake, with an obvious virtue before a ball is bowled.
They’re the world’s most successful team in day-night Tests, having played seven and won the lot, including four in Adelaide.
In contrast India, who were long reluctant to embrace the idea that, remain novices, playing just one day-night Test in Kolkata final year.
They thrashed Bangladesh in just over two days, limiting their exposure to twilight conditions where visibility will also be an issue and the ball has a tendency to swing as the sun sinks.
India did enjoy a day-night warm-up in Sydney at the weekend, where Shubman Gill (65), Mayank Agarwal (61), Rishabh Pant (103 not out) and Hanuma Vihari (104 not out) all capitalised.
India’s two best batsmen, Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, sat out the match but Vihari insisted their lack of pink-ball cricket would not hinder them.
“We’ve played a pink-ball Test before, so they are used to it… I’m certain being the professionals they’re, they will be very polite equipped,” he said, while admitting getting used to day-night cricket was once “a challenge”.
“The twilight time when the lights are on, it (the ball) does a little bit in the air and off the wicket.”
But Vihari added: “I feel as a team we are very polite prepared.”
Warner’s injury is one of a series of setbacks Langer has faced in recent weeks with concussed Will Pucovski, who was once set to take his place, also ruled out.
Marcus Harris has been reminisce about as cover, but who opens remains to be seen.
Incumbent Joe Burns is horribly out of form with Matthew Wade firming as the most suitable option to replace him.
That would open the door for red-hot young all-rounder Cameron Green, who Langer said would definitely play whether he recovers from a gentle concussion.
“We’ve got hard decisions to make, but hard decisions are good decisions because it means there is competition for spots,” Langer added.
Their all-star bowling attack is set in stone with quicks Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins complemented by spinner Nathan Lyon, Australia’s top wicket-taker in the final series.
India won the opening Test at Adelaide in 2018 in large part on the back of Pujara, who ground out 123 and then 71 to establish a 31-run win.
He again shapes as key, especially with Rohit Sharma out injured.
Superstar skipper Kohli will wish to make his mark in his only Test of the series, before heading home for the birth of his first child.
Ajinkya Rahane, who will imagine the captaincy when Kohli leaves, is a lock in the middle order alongside Vihari.
But their opening combination remains in flux. Prithvi Shaw and Agarwal are the current openers but Gill’s composed 65 under lights gave selectors plenty to ponder.
Like Australia, India have what Sachin Tendulkar final week called “a total” bowling attack, despite lacking the injured Ishant Sharma.
Headlined by Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav is tipped for the third seamer’s spot with Ravi Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav competing to be the frontline spinner, with Ravindra Jadeja injured.
After Adelaide, the series moves to Melbourne for the traditional Boxing Day Test, before games in Sydney and Brisbane.
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