13th over: India 47-1 (Agarwal 24, Pujara 12) Cummins to continue after the bodily hydration interval. A single from the over. “Good morning Geoff,” writes Ravi Raman. “Syed Kirmani is available for selection to the Clean Head XI.” Glad we’ve got a wicketkeeper, so far I’m heavy on slow bowlers.
Wait, here are some batsmen from Ian Forth. “Happy New Year, Geoff. I’d give a great deal to be on the Bald XI balcony when Boycott, Close and Sir Viv Richards were deciding when to declare. Also if Boycs had just instructed Matt Prior to go out and throw the bat, ‘don’t worry about your average’.”
Ian, if we’ve got Vic in the team, Boycott isn’t getting anywhere near it. Ricky Ponting had a pretty fair helicopter pad by the end of his career, didn’t he?
12th over: India 46-1 (Agarwal 23, Pujara 12) Starc into his fifth over, and Agarwal drives him majestically for four! That ball was wider, and the batsman stepped into it and used the full swing and the full flourish in sending it to the cover boundary. That was pretty. I saw a few people on the internet talking up the green pitch this morning, and using that dangerous phrase “good toss to lose”. Incorrect.
Starc follows up with a couple of bouncers, one too high, but one that makes Agarwal fend away towards a vacant leg gully region. That’s drinks.
James Walsh emails in. “What’s been so great about this series – and, indeed, Test matches this past year generally – is the whole concept of the draw feels increasingly like Grandpa Simpson explaining the fashion for onion-enhanced belts.”
Spot on – there was only one flat-track batting draw in 2018. Even the other couple of draws we had were exciting ones where rearguards held on. Australia in Dubai, Sri Lanka in New Zealand, and New Zealand and against England spring to mind.
11th over: India 41-1 (Agarwal 18, Pujara 12) How does Mayank Agarwal still not have a bat sponsor? He’s the best opener India have used this series, without a doubt. Drives Cummins through cover again for four. Then a leg bye after Agarwal’s hit on the body. Cummins didn’t like that shot.
I can sign a statutory declaration that Aditya Anchuri sent this before Rahul got out. “I hope I’m mistaken, but again India have made a massive selection blunder by bringing back KL Rahul. Honestly would have stuck with Vihari opening and brought in Hardik Pandya or Bhuvneshwar Kumar instead. This side is too spin heavy. If neither Pandya or Bhuvneshwar are match fit then they should be playing Ranji Trophy, not enjoying a nice Aussie holiday in the New Year.”
Can’t believe that Bhuvi hasn’t played a Test this tour.
10th over: India 36-1 (Agarwal 14, Pujara 12) Another good over from Starc, bringing a couple of leaves from Agarwal, then making him play as the line crept close to off stump. Just a single from the last ball as it got too straight. We’re getting a lot of mail about Australia’s selection.
Says Rob: “Anytime you can weaken your already weak batting lineup to introduce a 6th bowling option, you just have to do it. On a more serious note, do you think if Khawaja had opened and Finch batted #5 from the start of the series, it might have been slightly better?”
Slightly, yes, though Usman hasn’t exactly set the world alight this series either. But Finch did well opening in the UAE, so it’s understandable to give him a run and see if it worked.
“Does anyone know who Maxwell has upset, and how?” asks Grif. “The longer it goes on the less it looks like a cricketing decision. We’ll look after him in sunny Manchester and show him some love, I’m sure he’ll be able to feel the adulation through his three sweaters in early April.”
“Are they serious with these selections? I think I’m going to treat Australian team selection like string theory or car engines. Complicated mysteries of the universe that are beyond my understanding.” That email is apparently from David Warner, but I’m going out on a limb to speculate that it’s not our David Warner.
9th over: India 35-1 (Agarwal 13, Pujara 12) Defending, leaving, defending, then from the last ball of the Cummins over, Pujara stretches forward and opens the face a touch and steers a length ball into the ground past gully for four. I’m giving him that one.
8th over: India 31-1 (Agarwal 13, Pujara 8) “Tropical Cyclone Penny is reforming in the Coral Sea,” says the news report, and I’m not sure if it’s referring to a weather system or a punk band. Hazlewood continues from the Randwick End, with the Clive Churchill Stand at his back. Pujara drives a single, Agarwal keeps out the rest.
7th over: India 30-1 (Agarwal 13, Pujara 7) First change, and it’s Patrick Cummins. And listen to the ovation! They love it, this NSW crowd, even though both those bowlers are from this state. This over doesn’t work so well for Cummins as some recent ones in Melbourne though, as Agarwal twice drives a brace into the off side, then feels sufficiently warmed up to play a crisp cover drive from the last ball for four.
Raymond Reardon has had his imagination excited by my toupee reference, and is asking if there’s a best XI of balding cricketers. Well, off the top of my head…
Hanuma Vihari has to be in there, for his Kingpin work in Perth. Nathan Lyon, for the very public forum of his change, starting with a lush head of hair when he dismissed Kumar Sangakkara on debut in Galle in 2011, to the streamlined shaved look he has now, following Jimeoin’s edict of “You can go, but you’ll go now on my terms.” Chris Harris would have to get a gig, for his flying-saucer bowling approach. And Ashton Agar, for his dramatically abrupt and tragically youthful change from teen dream to billiard equipment.
6th over: India 22-1 (Agarwal 5, Pujara 7) That’s more like the Pujara we know and love. Vigil mode, as he sees out a Hazlewood maiden.
5th over: India 22-1 (Agarwal 5, Pujara 7) Nice delivery! Starc finds the inswinger with the new ball, threatening Agarwal, but this is a good opening batsman that India have found. He waits back, plays it late and squeezes it away behind square for three runs. Pujara is up for it this morning, he glances two and then checks a single out to cover, good sharp running.
“What’s your prognosis for this Test, Doc Lemon? I plump for a draw, and so an Indian series.” Please, Andrew Benton – Doctor Lemon is my father. Call me Zesty. But I don’t know where the draw’s coming from, unless you know about a Biblical deluge that the rest of us haven’t been told about. I’ll go on the line to predict that India will romp this in, given Australia’s batting.
4th over: India 16-1 (Agarwal 2, Pujara 4) There is something almost sensual in Cowan’s voice describing Pujara. “He plays the ball so late… softly squirting out to gully.” I’ll leave that image with you. Pujara gently wrists a couple of runs off his ankles to midwicket. Then repeats the dose to a shorter ball off the hip. Defended the rest. Black armbands ahoy, the Australians for former Test cricketer Billy Watson, and the Indians for Ramakant Achrekar, who coached Sachin Tendulkar.
3rd over: India 12-1 (Agarwal 2, Pujara 0) Agarwal off the mark as Starc pitches full, and a checked defensive shot fetches two past the bowler. Plays the shorter ball well, defending on his toes. Remember you can contact me via Twitter or on the email: Mirza Nurkic on the latter is claiming one of the anthems from earlier. “It’s called Mirza on the dancefloor,” is the claim. I’ll allow it.
2nd over: India 10-1 (Agarwal 0, Pujara 0) A win for Hazlewood in his first over, as Pujara comes to the crease shadow-batting a forward defensive the whole way.
That didn’t take long. Rahul edges the first ball of JH’s over into the ground again, coming half-forward and softly at the ball. But the third ball hits higher on the bat, towards the shoulder, and there’s no keeping those ones down. Straight into the cordon where Marsh waits at first slip.
1st over: India 6-0 (Agarwal 0, Rahul 5) Away we go. Starc with the new ball, coming in with the Bradman Stand behind him from the Paddington End. An unconvincing start for both batsmen, Agarwal missing a full ball and surviving an appeal as it was angling down leg, then after he takes a leg bye, Rahul edges along the ground through gully for four. Then an inside edge for one, and Agarwal is beaten outside off by a beauty. Agarwal replaced Rahul in the last Test, but now they’re playing a match together, as childhood friends who had a distant dream of doing exactly this. Nice stuff, though Starc wants to make it as brief as possible. Another play-and-miss ends the over.
“That’s the best over with the new ball Mitch Starc has bowled this summer,” says Ed Cowan on ABC radio. “The key was the length.”
Great Southern Land is also arguably an anthem, and it echoes around the SCG as the teams walk out to the middle: eleven Australians and two Indians, and two Englishmen officiating: Kettleborough and Gould. Hold onto your toupees, we’re about to take flight.
This is an anthem. Need I go on?
This is an anthem.
Anthem time, everyone standing at the SCG. Pah. This is an anthem.
This is… appealingly niche. When’s the last time two left-arm spinners played as specialist bowlers?
India are missing two Sharmas: Rohit is at home for the birth of his child, and Ishant has a rib injury. Ravi Ashwin is also not quite fit, so Ravindra Jadeja will retain his place, while the wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav will come in for Ishant. In the batting, Hanuma Vihari will drop from opener to No6 to replace Rohit, while KL Rahul comes back as opener. Got it?
For Australia, Finch is out, Khawaja will open, Labuschagne at three, as speculated. Meanwhile, down the order, Peter Handscomb will come in for Mitchell Marsh. Paine stays at No7, with the same bowling quartet as the previous three Tests.
Yep. That’s it. Australia’s job just got a whole lot harder. Kohli says “it looks like a good wicket with some covering of grass on it, it will get tougher and tougher to bat and the spinners later will come into the game.”
Now then. It’s been all but confirmed that Marnus Labuschagne will bat at No3. Fair enough in a way, he bats there for Queensland. Not so fair enough in another way, in that he averages 28 with the bat in the Shield this season, which isn’t exactly your first criterion for your Test first drop.
Speaking of, that means Aaron Finch will be the first drop of the day, out of the team with Usman Khawaja to open the batting.
It’s mostly a dubious call because the alibi for getting Labuschagne into the team was because he can bowl leg-spin, and Justin Langer and co. wanted another bowling option. But then, that’s an entirely pointless move given the SCG hasn’t offered anything to spinners in about a decade. A crazy selection choice, given Mitch Marsh couldn’t find a run in Melbourne, might have been bringing in the next-best batsman in the country.
For the next 17 minutes while selection dilemmas still exist, you can enjoy Adam Collins’ preview about selection dilemmas. In 18 minutes we’ll only have selection regrets.
I’d like to think that the Mudgee Guardian is our sister paper. What say you, Mudgee Guardian?
We’re 20 minutes from the toss. We don’t have teams as yet, because both sides are still considering their options, or keeping the others guessing. There are a few permutations going about. The surface this morning is as follows.
It’s Test match, it’s Test match time. (You know when I’m wearing my Test match socks that means it’s Test match time.) Happy 2019 to all you cricketing miscreants and layabouts and ruffians, and the respectable members of society amongst your number too. Here we go from Sydney, home of Moreton Bay figs and Kenneth Slessor, citadel of humidity and flashes of sparkling blue. The bridge is lit, the teams are gathered, and we’re about to embark on the final voyage of this series to see whether India can mark a first ever series win in Australia, or whether the home side can claw back to 2-2.