It is remarkable how the Australian openers resemble Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag from 2003-04. Both pairs made of a dasher and a blunter each. Running between the wickets being the stand out feature. And both middle orders benefited. Australia lost 10 wickets for 155 runs today, but the double century opening stand is essentially the difference in runs between the two sides’ first innings totals.
Talks of Cowan being a short-term solution at the top now needs to be revisited. Like in Melbourne, he left well and played to his strengths. His batting is constructed on good temperament and judgement, not too dissimilar to the construction of his prose. He complements Warner well and they seem to be a good pair at the top with their contrasting methods.
It will be silly of the selectors to replace Cowan with Watson when the all-rounder is cricket fit. While the number at which he should bat should he move out of the opening slot has been a never ending debate, he might fit in at three should he have to sacrifice his bowling in order to prolong his playing days. Marsh has been flashy, but looks most likely to drop of out favour when Watson returns.
While it does not automatically guarantees success for the pair in England in the Ashes, they seem to have the tools to succeed and deserve to be given a long rope.
While the batting options might be in slight for the selectors, their fast bowling stocks seem to be ripe. While Harris has a remarkable record in the few Tests he has played, it is the emergence of Starc with his pace, movement and bounce that caught the eye on Saturday. Blessed with natural bounce, he seems to be destined to join Pattinson and Cummins and lead Australia’s attack for many years to come. And, given his composure and ability with the bat, Australia’s lower-order has the needed extra padding given the sporadic form of its middle-order.
In contrast, the Indian openers can’t seem to get off the blocks at all through this series. Nor has the middle-order looked capable. Australia’s bowling has been good and has created collective pressure. Patience and the game of attrition which defined this batting for a decade have deserted them for over a year now. Five years ago, this side would scrap, fight and find a way past the initial trouble and eventually break the bowlers’ spirits by batting well for long. Keeping good sides out on the field for five sessions and more is how India broke good Australian sides of the past, now seem hard pressed to bat for half hour without losing a wicket.
It has been remarkable how mentally unclear the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir and Laxman have been this series. All tough and proud individuals, but they seem to be battling more than just the opposition. Sehwag has been patchy and unconvincing throughout the series while Gambhir and Laxman have been busy nicking to the various slips. On good days, they leave well outside the off-stump, but not this series.
It is regrettable that after a day of good fightback by the Indian bowlers, that only the follies of the Indian batting are being debated. After a poor showing at the SCG, the bowlers have bounced back well. Umesh Yadav rediscovered his MCG rhythm and ran through the top-order after the marathon opening stand to bring India back into a contest that seemed to be headed the SCG way. Australia struggled to cope with Zaheer’s mastery and Umesh’s pace. After a poor first day, Ishant and Vinay came back well to chip in with wickets.
Virat Kohli’s composure at the crease has been the high point of India’s insofar dismal batting display this Test. A big innings for him here will give him the confidence to blossom into a good Test batsman that he is capable of becoming. While day three of this Test in all probability will be the last day of this Test, India will hope that it will also be a day where Kohli takes his first strides in to hopefully a long Test career as India looks to the future without the comfort of the big names in its batting order.
When this Test is done and dusted, it is time India looked to the future. As Kohli and Umesh have shown, they are neither short on talent or ability.