Australia race towards a consolation victory

My daughter, Maddie and I were discussing the unexpected turn of events in Pune, India yesterday. Who would have thought that Australia could have ended the day almost 300 runs in front, still with six wickets in hand? Who would have guessed India could capitulate for 105 and that SOK would be the destroyer? It reminded me of a couple of other Tests, and series, which Maddie and I also discussed. I suggested that while I was thrilled at the current standing, I didn’t expect it to continue. Maddie suggested that consolation victories are usually dead rubbers but maybe Australia was having theirs now, at the start of the series.

To recap, Australia scraped to 260 thanks to a last wicket partnership of 55 and swashbuckling 61 from Mitchell Starc. India slumped to all out for 105, losing the last seven wickets for 11 runs. Kohli made a two ball duck, his first Test gozza in India. Australia was a whopping 145 runs in front on the first innings in a low scoring match. It was at that point that I paused to reflect.

I remembered the first Test in Chennai back in March 1998. India batted first and was unexpectedly rolled for just 257 and Tendulkar was mastered by Warne for 4. Australia made 328, led by 71 on the first inning and was boyant.

The other, more recent match was in Capetown, November 2011. There were startling similarities. Australia put together 284 led by a marvellous 151 from Michael Clarke. South Africa was ripped out for 96 runs, losing the last seven wickets for 23 runs. Shane Watson was the unexpected wrecker, taking 5/17. You would think that was an unassailable position with South Africa batting last. Wrong.

Australia lost both of those Test matches. In the first throwback, India regathered, made a good second innings and set Australia a target they couldn’t come close to, batting last. They then dominated for most of the rest of the series before a collapse in their final innings of the series gave Australia a consolation victory.

Most of you would know that in Cape Town, Australia could manage just 47 in the second innings and South Africa won easily in the end – by eight wickets.

I think Australia will win this match because they have done enough already in their second innings. I doubt they will polish of India so easily again in this series. India’s demise surely must have been largely due to complacency at best and arrogance at worst. But a lot of credit must go to Australia.

I like the new look team. I like that the selectors have given Smith a chance to build his own team with young men. I didn’t rate them any sort of chance in India. They had played well to win four in a row but I didn’t expect that to continue. Adding Renshaw and Handscomb to Smith and Warner gives Australia a chance to have a strong batting nucleus. If the selectors can start thinking straight about Khawaja and include him in the team, that will help even more.

Smith has immense resolve and I think he has some young guys who will follow his lead. I don’t know if Steve O’Keefe is going to have a great tour of India, let alone a Test career but he deserves to enjoy his 6/35 yesterday and I hope they are match winning figures, and that he adds to his haul.

I don’t know if the selectors have it right with the Marshes but I’ll leave that for now save to say a Test number six with a batting average of 23. Really?

Just to remind you all about Khawaja, he was dropped in Sri Lanka mid-last year after two bad Tests. Bad Tests for him and bad for the team. Perhaps there is a perception that he is weak against spin. To counter that, his overall average is almost 48. In six Tests last summer, he scored 581 runs at 52.81. These are his scores v Saf: 4, 97, 4, 64, 145, 0 ; v Pak: 4, 74, 97, 13, 79.  That is too many single figure scores but he had an innings of over 60 in every single match. Further, since his return to the team in November 2015 (little over 12 months ago), he has scored 5 centuries in 14 Test and a couple of 97s. Granted some of the opposition has been weak but you can only score runs against the opposition you are given. Khawaja is a prodigious talent and his results demand that he should be in the team.

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