Monday, January 25, 2021

India vs Australia, 3rd Test: India look to ride momentum in Sydney amid pandemic pressures

India vs Australia
Indian team in a huddle during a training session in Sydney (ANI Photo)

MELBOURNE, January 5: A Test series featuring moments of high drama on and off the field will lurch forward under the threat of Covid-19 on Thursday, with India’s bowlers aiming to strike a decisive blow as Australia’s misfiring batsmen attempt to regroup.
With a coronavirus outbreak still smouldering in Australia’s largest city, the Sydney Cricket Ground will host a socially-distanced crowd capped at 10,000 per day for what would usually be a packed New Year’s Test.
The series is level at 1-1, but India head into the third instalment with momentum after dampening Australia’s Christmas cheer with a dominant eight-wicket win in Melbourne.
Victory would ensure India retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy contested between the nations, two years after their breakthrough 2-1 win in the 2018/19 series.
Not all is well with the India camp, though, and the strains of a long, “biosecure” tour have started to show.
Five of India’s players are under the microscope for allegedly breaching health protocols when out for a meal.

Media reports have said the tourists might boycott the fourth and final Test in Brisbane if forced into more stringent quarantine.
The team has declined to hose down the speculation, leaving the Australian cricket board to affirm India’s support for the tour.
A rising injury count has also created headaches, forcing Ajinkya Rahane’s side to tweak its pace attack for a third successive match.
Shardul Thakur is expected to replace Umesh Yadav but the uncapped left-armer T. Natarajan, called up after Umesh’s calf strain, sent social media abuzz on Tuesday by tweeting a picture of himself in Test whites.
Batsman Lokesh Rahul’s wrist injury has also robbed India of a potential replacement for struggling opener Mayank Agarwal, though experienced batsman Rohit Sharma is available after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Australia have more serious batting problems, having failed to surpass 200 runs in the series.
They are likely to be bolstered by the inclusion of opener David Warner, badly missed while sidelined with a groin strain and set to replace the dropped Joe Burns.
The selectors must also decide whether to risk the uncapped and recently concussed Will Pucovski at the top of the order or persist with the makeshift option of Matthew Wade.
The form of master batsman Steve Smith, battling through his worst ever run of Test scores with a combined 10 runs for the series, will also be under scrutiny as he faces nemesis Ravichandran Ashwin.
With 10 wickets, Ashwin leads the series bowling with Pat Cummins, and has so far upstaged Australia’s spinner Nathan Lyon. , needing only two victims to bring up his 400th Test wicket, will hope to turn the tables at the SCG, traditionally the country’s most spin-friendly pitch.
KL Rahul ruled out of ongoing test series against Australia due to injury
In another setback for the Indian squad, batsman KL Rahul has been ruled out of the remainder of the two Tests of the ongoing four-match series in Australia. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in a media release on Tuesday, said that the 28-year-old sprained his left wrist while batting during a practice session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Saturday. India are already missing captain Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav — due to injuries. Rahul was not part of the playing XI for the first two Tests, but played his part with some fine performances in the limited-overs leg of the Australia tour that preceded the Test series.
“KL Rahul sprained his left wrist while batting in the nets at the MCG during Team India’s practice session on Saturday. The wicketkeeper-batsman will not be available for the remaining two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as he will need about three weeks time to recover completely and regain full strength,” the BCCI said in a statement.
The stylish right-hander will now return to India begin his rehabilitation process at the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
“He will now return to India and head to the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for further rehabilitation of his injury.”
Rahul played all three matches in the One-Day International (ODI) series in Australia, which the hosts won 2-1. The right-hander scored 93 runs at an average of 31 with a high score of 76.
India won the T20I series 2-1, with Rahul scoring a total of 81 runs in the three matches.
The 28-year-old was overlooked for the first two Test matches despite the absence of Virat Kohli (2nd Test) and Rohit Sharma.
The four-match Test series is currently level at 1-1 with Australia winning the opening match in Adelaide and India emerging victorious in Melbourne.
The third Test is set to start in Sydney on January 7. The fourth and final Test is scheduled to be held in Brisbane, starting January 15. (Agencies)