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AUS vs IND: Smith, Pujara & more talking points ahead of 3rd Test



Last Updated on 3 years by Charbel Coorey

AUS vs IND: Smith, Pujara & more talking points ahead of 3rd Test | 5 key talking points ahead of the third Test match between Australia and India

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy has completed its half cycle. After witnessing an epic collapse in the first Test in Adelaide, the Indian team bounced back in style by defeating Australia by 8 wickets in Melbourne. Indeed, it was one of their most finest overseas wins in recent memory.

So, the series is evenly poised at 1-1 right now, as we are heading to the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for the third Test starting from 7th of January. There are several things to talk about ahead of the third Test and I am going to mention five of those talking points in this article. Here we go.

5. Success of Ashwin compared to Lyon

AUS vs IND: Smith, Pujara & more talking points ahead of 3rd Test | 5 key talking points ahead of the third Test match between Australia and India
AUS vs IND 3rd Test talking points: Ashwin will be key again.

Before the start of the series, we all had almost a similar thought that Nathan Lyon would perform really well as he always does against India, whereas R. Ashwin’s place in the side was debatable because of his poor returns with the ball in Australia in all of his tours in the past.

But, things have been the opposite this time. Ashwin has been the best bowler in the series so far with 10 wickets from 2 games, whereas Lyon has picked just 4 wickets from 2 games. Yes, Lyon didn’t bowl in the 2nd innings of India in Adelaide and bowled just 17 balls in the last innings in Melbourne, but he bowled over 48 overs in the first innings of both the Tests combined, in which he dismissed just 2 batsmen from the top 7 of India and his rest 2 wickets were tail-enders. His average of 36.25 and SR of 76.5 with the ball are not encouraging at all. On the other hand, Ashwin has been very impressive so far, as eight of his ten wickets are of the top 7 batsmen. He is averaging just 17.70 and has a much better SR of 51.10. So, Australia would definitely want Lyon to pick wickets at crucial stages at the SCG just like Ashwin has done for India so far.

4. Poor returns from Pujara & Smith

AUS vs IND: Smith, Pujara & more talking points ahead of 3rd Test | 5 key talking points ahead of the third Test match between Australia and India
AUS vs IND 3rd Test talking points: Can Smith rediscover his best form?

In the last BGT back in 2018-19, Cheteshwar Pujara turned out to be the hero for India. He scored a mammoth 521 runs at a brilliant average of 74.43 involving 3 hundreds. So, we all had similar sort of expectations from him prior to this series.

But, apart from the knock of 43 in the 1st innings in Adelaide, all of his other 3 innings were poor and he has scored just 63 runs from 4 innings at an abysmal average of 15.75 so far, which is not something to cheer about for him as well as India.

Similarly, it has been a horrible series for the mainstay of the Australian batting unit, Steven Smith. Smith was bamboozled by Ashwin on two occasions and he missed a flick against Bumrah in the 2nd innings of the last test and got bowled, which we don’t see from him quite often. He has just 10 runs from 4 innings, which is awful especially for a player of such high standards. So, these things indicate both of these terrific players are going through a rough patch and they surely will be looking to score huge runs for their respective sides at the SCG. 

3. India’s issues with bottom five opposition batsmen

The love affair between Indian team and the bottom four or five batsmen of the opposition is second to none. We have seen the Indian bowlers dismissing the top five or six batsmen cheaply but being failed to demolish the tail quickly; which eventually have led to India’s defeat on so many occasions.

In the first Test at Adelaide, India were on top with Australia reeling at 111-7 at one stage. Tim Paine batted alongside Starc, Lyon and Hazlewood and Australia went on to score 191. Similarly, in the second Test, the Aussies were on the verge of an innings defeat having lost 6 wickets for just 99 runs. But, Cameron Green and Pat Cummins batted together for more than 35 overs and frustrated the Indian team to a large extent. The bottom three batsmen, viz. Starc, Lyon and Hazlewood played more than 15 overs cumulatively. These resistant efforts took Australia to 200 and they made India bat once again. Although India won the game, they still require a solution to this problem, as you can’t concede these many crucial runs while bowling to the bottom four or five batsmen.

2. Thakur, Saini or Natarajan?

AUS vs IND: Smith, Pujara & more talking points ahead of 3rd Test | 5 key talking points ahead of the third Test match between Australia and India
AUS vs IND 3rd Test talking points: Natarajan had a superb white-ball year in 2020.

Although India won the Boxing Day Test quite comfortably, the injury to Umesh Yadav during the 2nd innings of Australia has raised a few questions regarding the team selection for the third Test.

While T Natarajan has been added to the squad as the replacement for Umesh Yadav, there are other options in Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini. With Siraj and Bumrah all set to open the bowling for India, they need a perfect third seamer who can play the supporting role. If you ask me, I think Natarajan will be preferred over the other two. There are two reasons for this. The first thing is that he is a left-arm seamer, thus bringing some variety into the side. The second thing is he was seen hitting the right lengths in the limited overs series more often than the other two. He was skiddy and brought some odd balls back into the RHBs on a used Canberra surface and therefore I feel that he can be useful at the SCG, where it always exists something for the skiddy bowlers as the game progresses.

Also, his average and SR in First Class cricket are better than both Shardul and Saini. Shardul is primarily a swing bowler and Saini found it hard to bowl at the right lengths on the Australian wickets. So, I personally believe Natarajan might replace Umesh Yadav in the third Test and play the role of the third seamer perfectly.

1. Batting Order Conundrum of Both Teams

Though both India and Australia have won one Test each, we can’t deny the fact that both the teams have serious concerns at the top of their respective batting orders. Australia have touched the 200 run mark just once in this series, that too due to the performance of their lower middle order and lower order.

Smith has struggled and Marnus hasn’t scored a single fifty so far. Joe Burns has been axed because of his poor form and both David Warner and Will Pucovski have been added to the team after their respective injuries. Marcus Harris is still there in the squad. As Warner’s position is almost certain, I think it will be a tossup between Harris and Pucovski to open alongside him, which means we will most probably see Matthew Wade/ Travis Head in the middle order (I think Wade will be prefered).

On the other hand, Rohit Sharma has been appointed as the vice captain of the Indian team, which means he is a certainty in the playing XI. As he is supposed to open the innings, Mayank Agarwal is probably going to be dropped. Rohit hasn’t played a single game in this tour, so opening the batting straightaway against the trio of Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood won’t be an easy task. Also, Pujara has not been at his best so far. So, it will be interesting to see whether Rohit and Pujara step up and score some useful runs at the SCG or not. If they don’t, all things will depend on the skipper Ajinkya Rahane and the others will have to bat around him once again.


So, these are the five talking points I have ahead of the third Test between Australia and India at the SCG. Have your say!

Written by Debashish Sarangi. Follow Debashish on Twitter today.

Debashish Sarangi
Debashish Sarangi
Debashis loves translating his passion for cricket into words. He specialises in cricket opinion pieces including forward-thinking articles including players to watch as well as analysis across the three formats: T20s, ODIs, Tests. Debashis is also a prominent writer and editor for website

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