After another demolition at the hands of India, Australia will be itching to rebound in the final 2-tests to level the series and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Some perplexing selections in the 2nd test were met with average performances by the Aussies, and one would have to think the same XI cannot be put onto the park in Mohali if Australia is to be competitive.
Much has been made of Phil Hughes’ 3rd coming into the Australian test side, and many were hoping his sub-continent reincarnation would be similar the that of Matthew Hayden’s, but sadly he looks like a top order fish out of water against India’s spinners. Hughes has averaged a touch over 6 from the first 2 tests, while his record of being dismissed 4 times for zero runs in the last 39 balls he’s faced against spin, is reminiscent of Ricky Ponting’s run against Harbhajan Singh in 2001. The time has come for Usman Khuwaja to re-enter the test side. His technique and footwork make him a perfect candidate for the final 2 games, and he should come in at the expense of Hughes. Hughes has shown he has improved his weakness against the short ball, so should still hold confidence in being picked for the Ashes series.
Clarke as Australia’s best batsmen (by a long way) must move up to 3 or 4 to help stabilize the middle order. He is constantly coming in at 3 down for under 100 and needs to be in the top 4 to stem the flow of quick top order wickets. Clarke must also be careful to monitor his troublesome back and hamstring, as these are only likely to worsen if he is forever carrying his 10 teammates.
Ed Cowan will survive, purely because Shane Watson is not making enough runs to push himself to the top of the order, who will also be under immense to retain his position as a specialist batsmen.
If Australia is to persist with their fast bowling rotation policy, then either Peter Siddle or James Pattinson should be rested for the 3rd test. Pattinson has again proven he will be a mainstay in the Aussie pace attack for years to come, and ideally should be again leading in Mohali. This will be dependent on how his body pulls up, but as with Chennai, he was only really needed to bowl in one innings, albeit some long days in the field. Mitchell Starc is most effective when he is full and able to swing the ball into the right-hander, which is why he was so successful in the one-day series this summer, and why he could also potentially be a handful in England. When he does not have these attributes as we saw in the 1st test, he is pedestrian and easy to handle on the Indian dust-bowls. For this reason, Mitchel Johnson should be given his first chance of the series.
In a sensible world, Steven O’Keefe would be in India to work in tandem with Nathan Lyon, but the Australian selectors in all their wisdom chose not to pick Australia’s leading spinning wicket taker in shield cricket this year. Because of this, Xavier Doherty should retain his position as there are no other options, and this test has proven that Australia needs 4 front line bowlers to be competitive.
Glenn Maxwell is a talented cricketer, and he should be commended for his toiling efforts to take 4 late wickets in India’s 1st innings, but his wayward bowling in the 2nd session of day 2 had much to do with India taking the game out of Australia’s reach. Steve Smith should not come into consideration, as he cannot hold his position in the best Australian XI as a batsman or bowler, and the fact he was even chosen in the tour party as a batting all-rounder suggests that the selection process needs an overhaul.
England’s XI for their 1st test against New Zealand is that of a confident and established side (forget the fact NZ rolled them for 167). Compton, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Root, Prior, Panesar, Broad, Finn and Anderson on home soil is a scary prospect for Michael Clarke and his men, while they still have the like Swann & Bresnan waiting in the wings. The Australian team that has been dismantled by India will most likely be completely different to that which will line up for the 1st Ashes test in a couple of months, common sense tells us this. But clearly John Inverarity and his men don’t conform to the laws of common sense, so who knows what they’ll throw up.