Wednesday 13 December 2017 / 10:20 PM

SMITH AND CUMMINS SHINING STARS OF UNFORGETTABLE TOUR

A gritty Australia overcame dire prognostications to produce a commendable performance in India. However, despite being so close to causing a major boilover, Australia ran out of puff towards the backend to lose the series 2-1 and relinquish the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

With Australia now having a deserved breather until the Champions Trophy in June, here is some of the wash-up of an absorbing series, which rates in the shortlist of most memorable Australia has been part of this millennium.

Best Batsman: Steve Smith (499 runs; 71 avg)

Is anyone surprised that Australia’s inspirational captain was their one shining light with the bat? Apart from Smith, the Australian batsmen tried hard and fought valiantly but just could not sustain the effort for long enough. Redoubtable young opener Matthew Renshaw (232 runs at 29) was the only other batsman to pass 200 runs for the series to underline Australia’s overreliance on Smith.

Smith was almost impregnable and, unlike some of his teammates, was decisive against spin with precise footwork marked by a penchant to dance down the wicket. In challenging conditions, innately aggressive Australian batmen had to heed a more disciplined approach but most struggled attempting to recalibrate their game.

Conversely, Smith found the right tempo between stout defence and counterattack in some of the best batting seen by a foreigner on Indian shores. Smith’s overwhelming success in India ensures he stacks up favourably against Ricky Ponting, who is generally acknowledged as Australia’s best modern batsman but had difficulty in India.

If Smith continues to pile on the runs he could very well finish as the second greatest Australian batsman ever behind the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman.

Best Bowler: Pat Cummins (8 wickets; 30 avg)

Australia’s bowling attack was unwavering and gritty, continually keeping the vaunted Indian batsmen on their toes. Every bowler had their moment in the sun, particularly spinners Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe, but no one continually stood out.

With spearhead Mitchell Starc returning home due to injury after the second Test, Australia was robbed of their talisman and match-winning bowler. Predictably, Australia was largely written off for the remainder of the series.

Instead, Australia received a tonic from injury-prone but talented youngster Pat Cummins, who dazzled in his long-awaited Test comeback. In the final two Tests, Cummins produced consistently withering spells to ensure he always looked like being able to make a breakthrough. He has a rarefied ability to produce zip off sedate pitches and make things happen during quiet stretches.

Far away watching Cummins’s mesmerising talents, England undoubtedly would have been quaking in their boots with a looming Ashes to be played on bouncier Australian pitches.

Biggest disappointment: David Warner (193 runs; 24 avg)

If Australia had any chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, they needed their intimidating opener to produce. Unfortunately, Warner had a disastrous series yielding just one half-century in eight innings.

Warner tried to back his aggressive game but seemed to be caught in two minds knowing Australia’s mantra for the series was to bat for the long haul and shelve the outlandish shots. With much at stake, personally and for the team, Warner failed to come to the party fuelling an unwanted reputation of being merely a bully in his own comfortable terrain.

Warner would be wise to look in the mirror and answer some uncomfortable truths.

What’s ahead?

After playing almost nonstop cricket since the middle of last year, including 13 Tests and a mishmash of limited-overs series, Australia now has a deserved breather until the Champions Trophy in the UK in June.

In the Test format, Australia’s next Test assignment is a proposed tour of Bangladesh in August – subject to security clearance – before a home Ashes bout against England starting in November. Once the dust settles from this defeat, Australia will feel optimistic and bullish about the road ahead after such an encouraging performance in India.

However, they will be well aware that legacies are shaped and defined by the Ashes. All this goodwill emanating will amount to naught if Australia doesn’t reclaim the Ashes on home soil. They will enjoy some respite but know another crux period in Smith’s captaincy reign awaits.

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About the author

Tristan Lavalette

Tristan is a freelance journalist based in Perth. He has written for The Guardian, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Previously he was a newspaper journalist for almost a decade.

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