Australia v India
Wednesday January 2, 23:30
Live on BT Sport
Australia need a leveller
Australia are in the last-chance saloon. Victory is needed to avoid a home series defeat and deepen the gloom that has enveloped the national side following the ball-tampering affair. It robbed them off their confidence and most reliable runmakers in Steve Smith and David Warner.
With hindsight, the scandal has had catastrophic results. It's not just about the loss of runs. They are a hollow side with no vim and vigour, playing with the handbrake on in case they lose control again.
Solving the batting problem is surely beyond them with a game to go and the reality is it won't go away until they can pick Smith again. They can shuffle their top order as much as they like - moving Aaron Finch down, opening with Usman Khawaja, promoting Travis Head etcetera - but it won't make a huge amount of difference.
The probable dropping of Mitchell Marsh for Marnus Labuschagne doesn't make a huge difference either. That fifth bowler role is important to take the workload of the three pacers.
India running hot
India have already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy and even with a game to go and a guaranteed draw they can be mighty pleased with a terrific effort. The carrot of a series win in Australia for the first time is significant, however, and there will be no drop in intensity.
There will be no Rohit Sharma, who misses the contest to be at the birth of his child. His place will go to either KL Rahul or Murali Vijay, who were both dropped for the crushing win at the MCG. That could mean Hanuma Vihari is moved back down from opener. Another option is Hardik Pandya batting at No 6 and offering bowling relief.
The most tantalising prospect for punters, though, could be pairing Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin on an SCG pitch which has a reputation for assisting spin bowlers. Australia have not yet faced trial by spin.
Pitch should turn
The average score in the last 11 Tests is 355. But there have been some low scores among that lot. Australia were rolled for 127 versus Pakistan in 2010 and India could manage only 191 two years later. Five of the last nine Tests that have produced a result have been won by the side batting first. There have been only two draws in the last 15.
Hosts done for batting last
The 2.26/5 that is still available about India looks value indeed. So long as you ignore the fact that each of the three Tests have been won by the side batting first. Australia still have hope at 2.588/5 if the toss goes their way, although that price will shorten.
They are cooked, however if it doesn't. Mentally shot, they desperately need the comfort rug that a wearing fourth-innings pitch and strong pace attack brings. Nathan Lyon should also be a demon here as the pitch wears on.
Still, it would be remiss not to point out that India's pace attack has outbowled Australia's. Jasprit Bumrah has been a sensation. And no doubt there were wry smiles from many international sides at the public dismay by Pat Cummins at a lack of reverse swing. Can't think why that might be.
Khawaja has good vibes
Khawaja and Shaun Marsh should be feeling tip-top when the walk through the SCG gates. This time last year they pulverised England in the first dig. Khawaja scored 171 and Marsh 156. The previous year Khawaja notched an unbeaten half-century against Pakistan in the second. Khawaja is 3/1 and Marsh 7/2 (both Betfair Sportsbook).
Pujara the man
Virat Kohli is 9/4 jolly for top India runscorer in the first innings but he has copped only once in the series. Instead Chet Pujara is outshining him. It was his hard work and ton at the 'G which set up India. Pujara is 3/1 for a repeat.