Australia v India
Wednesday 6 January 23.00
TV: live on BT Sport
Australia have added David Warner and Will Pucovski to their squad as they look to bounce back from the hammering they suffered against India at the MCG.
Warner is not 100% fit and that he is being considered is testament to how India have spooked the hosts. Fellow opener Pucovski remains a doubt, though. The Victorian is recovering from concussion and whether he is in the right frame of mind for a Test debut remains to be seen.
Matthew Wade remains available but Joe Burns has been dropped. Despite the shuffle there remains a nagging doubt that Australia's top order is flaky, particularly with Steve Smith out of sorts.
Possible XI Warner, Pucovski, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Paine, Green, Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon
Who needs Virat Kohli? Not India, clearly. The comeback at the 'G - after being rolled for 36 - was quite extraordinary and rates as one of the finest performances by an away team in Test history.
Ajinkya Rahane made a brilliant century as stand-in skip and his selfless attitude has led many to shout that he should get the job full-time. Rahane's compassion will have been tested in the wake of the eight-wicket win, however.
Five Indian players have been carpeted for breaking Covid protocols. Rohit Sharma, who has only just arrived, Rish Pant, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw have had to train separately.
Umesh Yadav is injured meaning India's pace stock is beginning to look thin. T Natarajan or Navdeep Saini could come in.
Possible XI Rohit, Gill, Pujara, Rahane, Vihari, Pant, Jadeja, Ashwin, Siraj, Bumrah, Saini
The average score in the last 12 Tests is 383. Australia made 454 against New Zealand in a 279-run win batting first last January. The previous January India amassed 622 for seven declared in a drawn match , batting Australia out of the series.
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. Six of the last 10 Tests that have produced a result have been won by the side batting first. There have been three draws in the last 17.
There have been thunderstorms in the area pre-game. They should clear in time for day one but the threat of showers remain for the first two days. Clear skies thereafter.
Aussies to take charge
Australia have never lost back-to-back home Tests against an Asian team. Perhaps if their bowling looked as flaky as their batting, we might be strongly considering a bet on it happening.
As it is, the hosts look to be the call, although waiting for a tick or few up from 1.705/7 in-play seems smart. The key is who is more likely to take 20 wickets and the hosts have the edge.
India's preparation has been poor and there is a wonder as to how many hits they can keep taking. They are now without three of their most experienced fast bowlers. There is a lot of pressure on Jasprit Bumrah and spin king Ravi Ashwin.
The draw is 5.709/2 and India are 4.03/1. One feels they are only worth following with a wearing pitch - and spin to the fore - in their favour. So risk them only if they bat first.
Pant on fire
Warner returns with an 11/4 quote with Sportsbook for top Aussie bat in the first dig. In his last eight innings at the SCG he boasts four centuries and two fifties. Smith's record isn't too shabby, either - four fifties and one ton in six. Marnus Labuschagne hit a double in that clash against the Kiwis. He is also 11/4.
Some ground form to go on for India. Chet Puajara and Pant both hit big tons in that SCG draw in 2019. Pujara, who has been disappointing, is 11/4 favourite. Pant, however, holds great appeal at 9/1. Rahane is 3/1.