Venue: The Gabba, Brisbane
Date: Thursday, January 14th – Monday, January 18th
We are reaching the tail end of this tour that has seen the Indian team playing in Australia since way back at the end of November 2020. The first stage of the tour was three ODIs, with the hosts taking the first two contests and the tourists picking up a 13 run win in the third when the series was already decided. Those ODIs swiftly – there was a two-day break – transitioned into T20I matches and this time it was the touring squad that took the series 2-1. India picked up wins in the first two matches in Canberra and Sydney before Australia’s short-form specialists salvaged some pride with a 12 run victory in the final T20I game that was also played in Syndey.
This all meant that the honours were basically even heading into the Tests, with the only long-form match that was played before Christmas taking place at the Adelaide Oval. The Test was a remarkable one for the tourists – in all the wrong ways. Lasting only three of the scheduled five days, India led after the first innings after they put up 244 – still a poor score – but better than the 191 the hosts could muster. Then – in their second innings – India were bowled out for 36. Thirty-Six. It is the joint-fourth lowest total ever in international Test cricket and it was the first time in history that every single batsman failed to advance past single digits. Josh Hazlewood bowled an astonishing 5/8 as part of the Aussie attack.
India needed a response in the 2nd Test and after bowling Australia out for 195 on Boxing Day their batsmen went to work. Ajinkya Rahane hit an economical 112 from 223 deliveries as they put up a much more respectable 326 from 115.1 overs. Australia scraped their way to 200 in their second over, but India had no issues chasing down the total for a convincing eight-wicket victory. The series is level a 1-1 and everything is to play for here.
The 3rd Test was one where either team could have gained a foothold in winning the series, but it was drawn with India unable to score the 309 runs they required on the final day to secure a win. There was a partnership of 148-runs for the fourth wicket, but as soon as the combination of Pant and Pujara fell the tourists were more than content to bat out their innings with Australia unable to pick up five more wickets and India falling 88 runs shy of the total.
This all sets it up nicely for this final Test with the winning taking bragging rights for the entire tour.
Australia is sweating on the fitness of Will Pucovski as he is fighting to be injury-free after landing awkwardly on his right shoulder while fielding in the Sydney Test. Pucovski already had an issue with the shoulder before the incident and Marcus Harris is the likely replacement if Pucovski doesn’t show improvement in time. Another thing to watch will be with the bowlers amid some suggestions that a couple could be rested – or at least moved around in terms of pacing – after an extra heavy workload in the previous Test.
Australia hasn’t lost a Test at The Gabba since 1988 and if that is to change then India will be doing so with a side full of injuries. The tourists have lost Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami, and Ravindra Jadeja to various problems since the opening Test in Adelaide. In addition, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, and Ravichandran Ashwin are all playing with niggles that need rest. Their ability to put a competitive XI on the pitch will be tested here.
Bumrah has been ruled out of the 4th Test and Mayank Agarwal – a player expected to start in Brisbane – potentially has a hairline fracture picked up during practice. Losing pace master Bumrah is a huge blow and it tips what was already a likely win for the hosts into a situation where it becomes hard to see them lose. Play some alternative markets here – perhaps Kuldeep Yadav at 4.50 to be India’s best bowler or David Warner for Man of the Match at 7.50 – rather than taking Australia at the low price of 0.45.