Australia look for redemption after first Test debacle in India
Pat Cummins’ Australia side have returned to the site of their humiliating innings defeat and flown in a back-up spinner in an effort to redeem themselves before this week’s second Test against India begins in Delhi.
Left-arm slow bowler Matthew Kuhnemann has joined the match squad alongside left-arm quick Mitchell Starc for what is likely to be another gruelling trial by spin at the Arun Jaitley Stadium beginning Friday.
Opening batsman David Warner and company, who were routed for 91 to lose the first Test by an innings and 132 runs, went back to the dusty Nagpur pitch on Monday to practise.
Australia’s fragile batting remains the major concern after their second innings collapse in a single session to trail 1-0 in the four-match series.
“We’re still very positive among ourselves that we’ll be able to bounce back in Delhi and get this series back level,” said wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
“I think we’re a really strong Test team. We’ve got all bases covered. Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan this first Test.”
Australia are expected to make changes with Kuhnemann likely to be part of a three-pronged spin attack alongside Todd Murphy, who bagged seven wickets on his Test debut in Nagpur, and veteran Nathan Lyon on Delhi’s spin-friendly wicket.
Kuhnemann, 26, played four one-day internationals last year and replaces Mitchell Swepson, who was due to return home for the birth of his first child.
Batsman Travis Head is expected to make a return after his surprise omission, while Cummins also left the door open for Starc and all-rounder Cameron Green, who have both been recovering from finger injuries.
“Big key is to use reverse swing when the ball is a bit harder, which is making it more difficult for the batsman,” Starc, who could replace Scott Boland, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Obviously spin is going to play a huge part and if we can get the ball off the straighter seam then it is going to play a huge part as well.”
– Pujara’s milestone –
India, led by Rohit Sharma, will look to keep up the momentum with a line-up unlikely to change in batsman Cheteshwar Pujara’s 100th Test.
“It’s a huge achievement for any cricketer. A lot of things are, other than talent, responsible for playing 100 Test matches,” said India coach Rahul Dravid.
“It is a reflection of your longevity. It is a tribute to your skill, your fitness, your resilience, ability to handle success and failure.”
But Pujara, a one-format player with an average of more than 44, said he would have the bigger picture in mind during his landmark match.
“We are playing an important series against Australia,” Pujara, 35, told ESPNcricinfo.
“Yes, the second Test will be my 100th, but there will be two more Tests after that which will be very important for us to win to qualify for the (World Test Championship) final.”
Pujara scored seven in Nagpur, but Rohit’s 120 and powerful bottom-order knocks by Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel saw India comfortably out-bat the tourists with their 400.
Spinners Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin remain in prime form with 15 wickets between them in Nagpur.
Middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer has been declared fit to return to the squad for the second Test after a back injury made him miss the opener.
The first Test win means India have strengthened their qualification prospects for the World Test Championship final at The Oval in London from June 7-11.