Two matches into the Test series and how the fortunes of both the teams have turned on its head. Australia, who scripted a 146-run victory at Perth (first since the infamous ball tampering fiasco), seems rejuvenated and well settled for the first time in the four-match series. India, on the other hand, have been forced to rethink their strategy and drop openers KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, which gives youngsters Hanuma Vihari and Agarwal the chance to open the innings and make an impression. A fit-again Rohit Sharma will give the cushion of an extra batsman.
From India’s point of view, a win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will provide the much-needed boost in the morale inside the dressing room which doesn’t seem like a happy one at the moment. The answer to India’s improvement lies in the first Test, where the bowlers and Pujara stood tall and took the game away from Australians. That is something that Kohli and co. should focus back on. Wickets have not been the problem, it is runs at the top that is proving to be India’s nemesis. Whether Agarwal and Vihari have the answer to it is a matter of conjecture but one thing going in their favour is confidence.
Agarwal has earned his place by sheer weight of runs in domestic cricket. Vihari bats at number three for Andhra and has previously opened for Hyderabad earlier in his first-class career. A little bit of support from the other batsmen and India can surpass the 350-run mark which is a match-winning score in the current screnario.
Another important aspect which must be kept in mind is the toss. Reams which have won the toss have gone on to win both the Tests- Adelaide and Perth. Hence, whoever calls correctly on Boxing Day will definitely have the advantage on its side.
Batting at the MCG will be another challenge for the visitors as its big boundaries will not result in easy runs. The MCG has square boundaries of 86m. Run-making at Melbourne is an art that only a few have been able to master. With a hundred on the previous tour at the same venue, Virat Kohli is one person who can definitely help his teammates learn the trick of the trade.
Meanwhile, Australia have made just one change to their playing XI for the third Test with Mitchell Marsh coming in for Peter Handscomb.
“It’s a long series, our bowlers have had a really big workload and we feel we’re going to need Mitch’s bowling at some point,” Paine told reporters. “I’m sure Pete would be upset. I think he’s had conversations with the selectors that there are a few things they would like him to work on and Pete is open to that.”
Paine didn’t reckon that the change in the side would impact their momentum after a resounding 146 run victory at Perth to equalise the four-match Test series.
Teams: India (XI): Virat Kohli (capt), Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami.
Australia (XI): Tim Paine (capt & wk), Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood.
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