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Australia will look to kill with pace not runs as India celebrate Smith, Warner absence

India will have a stiff challenge on their hands when they face the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in the four-match Test series.

India TV Sports Desk Written by: India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Published on: December 04, 2018 8:44 IST
Australia will look to kill with pace not runs as India celebrate Smith, Warner absence
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Australia will look to kill with pace not runs as India celebrate Smith, Warner absence

Much has been said ahead of the four-match Test series against India about how Tim Paine's Australia is a depleted side minus the ever-consistent Steve Smith and the swashbuckling David Warner and how their absence will give India the advantage against a 'weak' Aussie batting line-up.

The advantage is so high apparently that India this time around have a chance to win the Test series and script history by becoming the first-ever team from the subcontinent to win a Test series Down Under.
But, is there any advantage really for Virat Kohli's men?
History and statistics definitely suggest otherwise. The old cliche of games are not won on paper is the one that fits the bill the most in this context.
India led by Kohli have a talented batting line-up but much of it has failed to fire in unison. In the last two series, while touring, it was only captain Kohli, who racked up the runs. The 30-year-old scored 286 runs from six innings at an average of 47.67 in South Africa and he followed it up with a humongous tally of 593 from 10 innings -- averaging 59.30 to bury the demons of the past.
But after Kohli, the highest run-getter in South Africa was Hardik Pandya with 119 from an equal number of innings -- out of which 93 came from one single innings. In England, it got a little better though. KL Rahul was the second highest scorer for India with 299 runs from 10 innings at an average of 29.90 and again, 149 of those 299 runs came in the last Test at The Oval.
So, clearly the problem lies in the batting and what adds to it is the fact that the home side has a full-strength attack that has run through oppositions (including them) in the past. Last time India played in Australia, Nathan Lyon took 23 wickets while Josh Hazlewood bagged 12. Mitchell Starc picked up seven from two matches.
But, this Australian team is hurt. While the batting has been a complete letdown, their pace battery backed by Lyon has done quite well. Away from home, the Aussie pacers picked up 44 wickets amongst themselves in South Africa while Lyon bagged 16. In UAE against Pakistan, Lyon grabbed 12 while Starc and Peter Siddle picked up four and three wickets respectively.
But at home it's different. The pacers have played Shield Games and have enough rest and are expected to trouble the batsmen again when the first Test begins on December 6 in Adelaide.
For India, the problems have only deepened. The visitors lost Prithvi Shaw due to an ankle injury he picked up in the tour game versus Cricket Australia XI and their bowling, which was supposed to be India's reason of advantage has leaked 544 runs in the first innings, with three batsmen hitting fifties and one smashing a century.
However, the argument that Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn't bowl and Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav bowling 2.1 overs among them could be a comforting factor for some but Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri should be a little concerned with the outing of the pacers, who have been brilliant lately.
The pace quintet of Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma have done exceedingly well on the last two tours abroad and have been the reason India have been so competitive in South Africa and England.
Against the Proteas, it was the pacers, who starred and got the home side out on all three occasions while in England it was the same story barring when they ran into Sam Curran, who would keep them waiting each time.
Over the last two tours, the Indian pacers have picked up 98 wickets amongst themselves and if you count Hardik Pandya, who is set to miss the series, it goes up to 111. On the other hand, the spinners have only bagged 28 of them including Hanuma Vihari's three-for at The Oval.
So, it has clearly been the bowlers, who have been leading India's charge abroad this year and has got some backing from Kohli. With Australia undecided about their middle-order and even openers, this was and still remains India's opportunity to strike back.
But, the visitors will again have to be wary of collapses, the kind of which they suffered in the tour game. Although five batters hit half-centuries, Kohli's men went from 347/5 to 358 all-out. In the second innings, Rahul and Murali Vijay however, did show some form and scored 62 and 129 respectively as the game came to a close at the SCG.
With Shaw out, Vijay has to step in at the top and maybe that could turn out to be a blessing in disguise if 'history' is taken into consideration. Vijay was the second highest run-getter for India in the 2014-15 series with 482 from four matches behind Kohli, who had smashed 692 including four hundreds. Ajinkya Rahane accumulated 399 runs as well.
For Australia however, it was Smith, who top scored with 769 and Warner was a far-off second with 427 but they won't be there and this could be India's only solace going into the first game at the Adelaide Oval.
Their absence is a major blow to the Baggy Greens but Justin Langer and his men know that the Indians barring Kohli are not great batters in bouncy and seaming conditions and they have the best pace attack to make use of those conditions.
Yes! Australia have been battered everywhere they have gone since the ball-tampering scandal shook them earlier this year but the everywhere doesn't include their own backyard and in today's game -- everyone is strong at home and no matter what, it becomes increasingly difficult for a touring team to come out with a series win Down Under.
And one should always remember that a hurt and battered lion can be the most dangerous in its own den.