Kohli vs Smith, Bumrah vs Hazlewood, Ashwin vs Lyon and other key battles


The highly anticipated Border-Gavaskar series is almost here. India prepared with two three-day matches in Sydney which involved some of the players from the Australian test, while the rest of the home side trained in Adelaide. However, Australia’s build-up has been far from smooth, particularly when it comes to who will open the bat. For India, they know there will only be one test with Virat Kohli. So how do the two teams stack up?

Top order

Australia David Warner, Joe Burns, Marcus Harris, Will Pucovski, Marnus Labuschagne
Inde Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubham Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul

Warner’s loss to Australia is enormous. Coupled with Burns’ dismal form, there’s a good chance the home side will come in with a makeshift first pair. Agarwal is sure to play and has spent some useful time in the middle in Sydney. Gill is a superb talent but he still can’t force his way past Shaw. For both camps, the No.3 promises to be a pivot with Justin Langer having confirmed that Australia would not risk weakening a force by pushing Labuschagne to open. Two years ago Pujara was the batting star of the series and with Kohli only for a test he may have to do it again.

Who wins? With Warner, Australia. Without him it’s too close to call

Middle order

Australia Steven Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Moises Henriques
Inde Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma

There was no Smith vs Kohli two years ago and this time there will only be one test before Kohli comes home. From a purely cricket point of view this is a huge shame. There’s almost nothing to divide them like, along with Kane Williamson, the best of the current generation. The races from the rest will be just as vital. Rahane has an excellent track record abroad, averaging 44 in Australia, and is set to become captain from Melbourne, while last season he felt Head was settling in as a test batsman. Wade is seen as the most vulnerable although opening issues may force a reshuffle. Green’s potential debut is one of the most anticipated of recent times for Australia. Vihari played a useful role in the 2018-19 series and India could be bolstered by Rohit for the final two tests.

Who wins? With Kohli, too close to call. Without him, Australia

Wicket keeper

Australia Tim Paine
Inde Pantalon Rishabh, Wriddhiman Saha

The comparisons here are slightly different because for Australia, Paine has the harbor master’s office. His stick, often unfairly maligned, was unnecessary last summer, but he did play a very important hand against New Zealand at MCG with one of his most assertive test innings. Also marked a century in the Sheffield Shield earlier this year. Pants can be destructive in the middle order, as he showed in Sydney two years ago, especially if he has a foundation to lean on. Do we need more babysitting jokes? Probably not. Saha is a fantastic wicket keeper, the best glove of the three, but Pant is probably preferred.

Who wins? India, fair

Rhythm bowlers

Australia Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Sean Abbott
Inde Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj

The two rhythm attacks could be the battle of the summer. It’s just a shame that Ishant Sharma is missing for India as he in support of Bumrah and Shami makes a formidable trio, but Umesh should not be underestimated. Australia currently has the best collection of fast bowlers; Whether the Big Three can play all four tests remains to be seen, but Pattinson is a practical first reserve and Neser deserves a test cap. Cummins and Hazlewood rarely play bad spells, and Starc’s Test mojo returned last summer.

Who wins? Australia, but watch out for Bumrah


Australia Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
Inde R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav

In many ways Lyon are key to how this Australian attack and this team have been able to function. He’s two bowlers in one, able to keep up with the rapids and grab his chance to win a game. He and Ashwin are the two best finger spinners in the game. For India, Ashwin also has a key role to play with the bat at # 8 (as Jadeja would). Kuldeep took five wickets at SCG on the last tour.

Who wins? Australia, but if Lyon were injured they would have a problem

Andrew McGlashan is associate editor of ESPNcricinfo


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