Australia v India
Friday 15 January, 00:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Australia should be 2-1 up with a game to play. They know it. That's why childish antics from Tim Paine and Steve Smith came to the fore on the final day as India survived to claim a backs-to-the wall draw.
What's more important than worrying about Australia's 'culture', is Paine's tactical acumen. We haven't forgotten Headingley or the decision to bowl first at The Oval in the last Ashes summer. The opposition, of course, are allowed to play well but Paine has a habit of getting basic calls wrong.
Will Pucovski, solid on debut, is now out again. He injured a shoulder in game two. So Marcus Harris will pair with David Warner in the opening birth. Australia's pace attack will keep their fingers crossed that the toss keeps them in the shed on day one.
Possible XI Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Paine, Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon
India keep on finding new ways to impress. The comeback after the Adelaide humiliation and the fight in Sydney suggests a close-knit, motivated unit. While we're on the subject of leadership, one wonders what Virat Kohli makes of it?
They are depleted further for this one and how they've not broken yet is testament to their skill and nerve. This time there is no Ravi Jadeja or Hanuma Vihari. And that could spell disaster because their ability to offer a balance as a bowling and batting all-rounder respectively. There are worries about a niggle keeping Jasprit Bumrah out.
The solution could be to pick Rishabh Pant as a batsman and bring in Wriddi Saha as wicketkeeper. Kuldeep Yadavb may be asked to bat at No 8. Shardul Thakar and T Natarajan stand by if Bumrah fails to make it. If Bumrah is out then India will line up without six first-choice picks.
Possible XI Rohit, Gill, Pujara, Rahane, Pant, Saha, Ashwin, Kuldeep, Bumrah, Saini, Siraj
The Gabba is quick and bouncy. And that's the fief reason Australia haven't lost there since 1988. That 'culture' we mentioned call it 'The Gabbatoir'. They have won seven in a row. The Aussies batsmen love it, too. They can play their shots on the up without fear or seam or swing meaning the edge comes in to play. In five of the last six Australia have busted 400 in their first-innings. There is a bit of rain around but not enough to reckon that enough overs are going to be lost to impact a result. There might be some healthy numbers on Australia for 450 or more.
Hoping for movement
There has been a big gamble on Australia as news of India's injuries have filtered out. They are now no better than 1.491/2 for victory. India are 8.207/1 and the draw is 4.707/2.
Clearly we don't play at such skinny odds on the hosts, even though we believe that this will be a game too far for India. There could be trading options, though. A nibble on India batting first is in option but it comes with a caveat of their batsmen adjusting to a tricky wicket.
Hope that Australia may take a shift to 1.705/7 seems forlorn, however, if they bat first because of that consistency in run-getting. There's not much optimism at Betfair Sportsbook, either. They are as short as 8/11 that the Test ends before day five.
Warner has 817 runs in eight Tests at The Gabba, Smith 579 in six and Labuschagne (on his state home ground) 266 in two. On those numbers each man will prove popular for top Australia bat honours with Sportsbook going 10/3, 11/4 and 3/1 respectively.
India's bat market offers lower-order value. Pant is again a fancy at 6s while Saha and Ashwin catch the eye at 9/1 and 20/1 respectively.
Ashwin looks solid at 5/2 for top India bowler with Bumrah missing out or not at his strongest. He could well get through a big workload with the pacers getting little joy.
Why India are under pressure at The Gabba on Cricket...Only Bettor