The first Test match of the summer kicks off tomorrow in Adelaide, and nobody really has any idea which Australian (or Indian for that matter) team will show up. Australia have already shocked India in the T20’s, so anything could happen.
India are the number one side in the world, but that status has largely come through bullying other teams in Asia, as they have already lost 3 overseas series’ this year. Australia are a lowly fifth, but the rankings are so tight that an unlikely whitewash of India at home would propel them to first!
Neither side has a clear view of their batting line-up, with Australia coach Justin Langer today suggesting that Marcus Harris will make his debut, while selectors are still to choose between Peter Handscomb and Mitch Marsh at 6. India, meanwhile, are trying to fit a spinning all-rounder in to complement their new pace battery.
In the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith – who are both in the best 5 batsmen in the world but are banned over ball-tampering – the Australian batting looks fragile. India have also been weak batting overseas, with captain Virat Kohli the only one to stand up outside of India this year.
India’s bowlers were reasonably successful on their tours of England and South Africa, against rather stronger batsmen than Australia has at its disposal. Conditions, however, are likely to be different in Australia where raw pace and power is required to compensate for a lack of movement in the pitches. Here only Australia and South Africa have shown themselves to be consistently able to take 20 wickets in Tests.
Australia will likely have the edge in the bowling department, with the pace and power of Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins combining with Josh Hazelwood’s still fast accuracy and Nathan Lyon’s ability to spin the ball on just about anything. This also means that the Aussie batsmen will have been facing more formidable practice in the nets than the Indians.
This first Test – and the series as a whole for that matter – looks very even, however at home Australia’s bowlers should give them enough of an edge to make up for an unreliable batting unit. This prediction is made with no confidence, however, and if Australia can’t contain Kohli then they will be in trouble, with no Steve Smith to steady the ship.