The third day of the warm-up game was a good reality check for Indians as the likes of McDermott, Carey and Wildermuth gave them the trailer of what the movie with the old ball might look like in the Tests. For Australia, their opening woes continued to trouble them as both Harris and Burns failed.
Aussie openers survival issues in broad daylight
Australia's opening woes have been laid bare even in broad daylight and one can just imagine and if I am an Australia fan, I wouldn't want to, given how dreadful opening is turning out to be. Joe Burns, who had adopted a remodelled stance of sorts has literally nothing working for him. The right-hander is starting from middle-off, with the intent of opening the off-side more and trying to cover the stumps to overcome one of his batting frailties. But, if anything it has turned his batting from poor to worse or one could say the form and confidence he's in at the moment, nothing is coming off for the Queensland batsman. Burns was trapped in front of the wicket by Shami trying to flick the ball and has made five runs in four innings, bagging two ducks in the practice games while he has 62 runs in nine innings this season. And all this after he was supposed to be the senior opener in the absence of Warner.
There is no denying to the fact that Marcus Harris batted solidly for his 35 and 25* in the first practice game against India A that played a part in his addition to the Aussie squad in absence of Will Pucovski. But, the pink-ball warm-up game didn't turn out fruitful for him as he could just manage 30 runs. Today, the way he was baited by India wasn't fitting of someone that is set to open in the first Test. In the first innings, he played a loose shot and today, Shami had a leg-slip in place for him, and he played straight into his hands, it was just poor shot selection and something, which was apparent and Harris still couldn't deal with it, having had a corker of a Sheffield Shield season for Victoria.
Mohammed Siraj emerges as a strong contender for 1st Test
Fast bowler Mohammed Siraj had been banging the doors for India selection with his consistency in the domestic cricket and he was rewarded with selection for the Australia Tests. And Siraj has been doing everything possible to get a head start over the other Indian pacers for the first Test. In both the practice games, he has been highly impressive and has shown that his superior FC bowling average of a shade over 23 is not for nothing. He has shown the skill and temperament of a proper Test pacer, bowling impeccable line and lengths, using the hard lengths well, and creating chances for wickets and not letting the pressure created by the likes of Shami and Bumrah evaporate.
He sent back Nic Maddinson after Shami had got both the Aussie openers cheaply today to put the tourists under further pressure. In last innings as well, he had taken one wicket and bowled with discipline. While in the first Test, he had a good first innings, picking three wickets. On the other hand, Navdeep Saini, today, was bowling too full at times, straying on to the pads, giving the width, balling too short and just all over the place, pretty much like the ODI series. The way Siraj has been bowling, he has to play ahead of Saini in case India unleashes a four-man pace attack for the day-night Test and might even be a better choice than Umesh Yadav in case Kohli decides to go with three seamers given Yadav's poor away record and habit of spraying the ball over the place like was the case last time in Australia.
The much-dreaded old Kookaburra ball and flat Indian bowling
One of the major reasons behind more runs being scored in Australia than any other SENA country is the fact that after 15-20 overs, the Kookaburra ball starts getting soft on hard bouncy wickets and doesn't provide the help that Dukes provide for long hours. And that is where Indian bowling was supposed to be the tested the most especially in the absence of Ishant Sharma. And pretty much like what was feared despite all the improvements, Indian bowling was toothless that too with the likes of Shami, Bumrah, Siraj and Saini all playing in the XI. No doubt the pitch flattened out with time but if India can't strike against a second-string Australian batting line-up that too during the night when the ball does something, it is going to be a long tour for India ahead.
Getting back to reality, there can be no denying to the fact that Australia missed Steven Smith and David Warner dearly last time but with them back plus the addition of Marnus Labuschagne, who boasts an average of 63.43, India must get ready for sterner challenges after 20 overs. Ishant Sharma was also missed a lot today as the seasoned campaigner was the ideal candidate to bowl with old Kookaburra ball. He could hold up one end, consistently bowl tight line and lengths, and induce false shots with his extra bounce and accuracy, but he isn't going to be part of the side. Bumrah was ineffective today, Siraj was decent, Shami can't do it all while Saini was leaking runs and pressure as Australia A batters kept piling up the runs.