Often, writing previews of mid-series Test matches can be a challenge. Sometimes there just isn’t much to say as two teams continue bumbling along a course long since put into place. Luckily this isn’t one of those cases. Since their disastrous defeat last time out in Hyderabad, Australia have spent most of their time ripping themselves apart in a Lord Of The Flies style descent into anarchy and chaos. The end result of all this is that Shane Watson is back in Australia with his feet up watching Home And Away, while Usman Khawaja, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson are all sat on the naughty step, refused permission to play with the boys who actually handed their homework in on time, such as Steven Peter Devereux Smith.
Quite what this episode will do to the trouble tourists’ morale is anybody’s guess. Teams often find strength in adversity, pulling together when the world seems to be against them. On the other hand, this series has had 4-0 written all over it for some time and no amount of public shaming of ‘Piggy’ Khawaja as a fatty fat fat is likely to change that.
Despite their extremely strong position, it’s not all plain sailing in the Indian camp. After what feels like a decade of generally pissing about and being ambivalent about it, Virender Sehwag has finally been axed from the Test side. This feels like a genuine watershed moment in Indian cricket, albeit one that has largely been usurped in the news by the tourists squabbling over the best way to Mordor. In Sehwag’s absence Ajinkya Rahane will presumably make a well-deserved debut.
Away from the top of the order, India’s only other decision is around the makeup of their bowling attack, particularly the name of the second spinner. We’re still not exactly sure why Harbhajan was picked for the first two games ahead of the rather more impressive Pragyan Ojha, unless it was to try and sell a bunch of ‘Harbhajan 100 caps’ merchandise that the BCCI had kicking around. The stats certainly haven’t backed up his selection – just five wickets at more than 40 – so it would make sense to us for him to step aside. Of course, that probably won’t happen. Indian cricket is one of those things, like girls and the Dewey Decimal system, that we just can’t quite fully get our heads around.
Of course the real excitement concerning this game is around Australia’s team selection. With Brad Haddin newly arrived in town, they have a whopping 13 players to choose from and a whole two decisions to make. The bowling attack will consist of Starc and Siddle (the only two quicks available) alongside Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell and one of the shit frontline spinners. Whether Nathan Lyon’s so-called technical issues have been addressed remains to be seen, but our money is on Xavier Doherty shaming Test cricket with his presence once again.
It’s the makeup of the batting lineup that really has us dribbling with anticipation though. Phil Hughes will presumably stay at three, saved by the fact that there aren’t any batsmen left to take his place, while Michael Clarke will move up to four. With Wade or Haddin at six that leaves a distinctly Devereux-sized gap in the middle order. After two years, two months and seven days, Steve Smith is back in town!
Unless of course Haddin bats at five. We’ll be fucking annoyed if that does happen, like when Boromir tried to pinch the ring off Frodo.
By all accounts, the pitch in Mohali should be slightly more suited to the quicks than the previous two matches. While this should in theory help Australia, we can’t get away from the fact that the current side is a complete and utter shambles, particularly with the bat. India aren’t great but Bhuvneshwar Kumar has looked more than decent so far, so will probably just get to pinch a few more wickets away from Ashwin and Jadeja in the process of bundling Australia out twice.
Steve Smith to make a hundred in both innings, India to still win by miles. Australia’s players to have their critical analysis of William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies handed in by Tuesday morning at the very latest.