While weather prevented India the opportunity to press for a 3-1 series win, and Australia the opportunity to earn a draw with a rear guard fifth day effort, the Fourth Test will be remembered for the tourists once again grinding the home team into the dirt. Once again India broke the back of the Aussie bowlers with a disciplined and determined batting effort seeing Tim Paine’s men unable to dismiss them for the third successive innings.
Having watched on for two days as the tourists made the SCG pitch look like something similar in condition to the Hume Freeway, the Australian batters managed to make the same stretch of turf look more treacherous than the McCallister residence in Home Alone. With Marcus Harris top-scoring with 79 meant Australia went through the entire series without a centurion and their batting woes were further highlighted when forced to follow on for the first time on home soil for 30 years.
So what were the Hits and Misses from the final Border Gavaskar Trophy Test Match of the Summer?
1. Pujara delivers one last masterclass.
The Aussies will no doubt be glad to have seen the back of Cheteshwar Pujara, but it would be wise for the teams failing batters to take special note of the way the 30-year-old went about his business this series. His 193 in Sydney seeing him post 521 runs for the series, nearly 200 more than the next best. In the age of batters ‘imposing themselves on the bowler’ it is telling that Pujara excelled through batting time and absorbing pressure.
2. The ‘babysitter’ makes Paine pay.
Rishahb Pant and Tim Paine enjoyed a much publicised back and forth during the Third Test, which was followed with an early contender for Instagram Post of the Year. Unfortunately for the Aussie skipper his first choice babysitter extracted a heavy price for his services with the first century by an Indian wicket keeper in Australia. Paine had no answer to the carefree hitting of his rival keeper with Pant producing a career best 159no. At just 21, the Aussies will need to find a way to curb Pant’s output or he may well torment them for a long time to come.
3. From understudy to leading man.
Kuldeep Yadav had to sit impatiently on the sidelines through the first three test matches watching his team’s fast bowling attack rip through the Australians time and time again. Rather than bemoan his luck, he remained ready in case he received the call up to the side to repay the selectors for the opportunity. He finally got his chance in Sydney and his left arm wrist spin delivered the knockout blow after the Indian bats had left Australia weak at the knees. Another youngster with his best ahead of him, Yadav is a bright shining example of the depth at India’s disposal.
4. Paine plays message bank.
Look we know there was a lot of outspoken criticism in response to Tim Paine’s moment of levity in his press conference on Day Three but we think this is misplaced. The skipper’s answering of a journalist’s phone was nothing more than a bit of fun on a day when he wouldn’t have had many laughs as Australia’s hopes of squaring the series evaporated. The idea that he needed to be the living embodiment of his nations disappointment is just ridiculous. If you are the kind of person who cant have any fun after a bad day at the office it says more about you than anything you think this press conference says about Paine.
1. The weather.
While Australia were the undoubted beneficiary of mother nature’s intervention to proceedings in Sydney, there was something entirely unsatisfactory about this series – that offered so much – ending in a whimper. Rain on Day Five made it moot, but there needs to be a better solution to the eternal question of bad light that presented itself so often on the four days previous.
2. Australia’s bowling.
Entering the series regarded, at least on these shores, as one of the best bowling attacks on the planet, the Australian bowlers were completely outpointed by their previously underappreciated opponents. In the Fourth Test, the toothless nature of the attack against India once again exposed with India once again declaring with Australia only able to take all 20 wickets twice in the series.
3. Australia’s batting.
The 42-run partnership for the Tenth Wicket between Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood illustrated the opportunity squandered by the top order before them. Despite five of the top six getting starts each fell as a result of self inflicted wounds before making India pay. Shaun Marsh, the most experience Aussie bat in both years and in Tests, is worthy of individual scrutiny. With batters in and out of the side for poor form around him, Marsh has an almost unquestioned position in the team. Despite this unwavering faith shown in him by the selectors, with an average of 18.10 and a strike rate of 38.52 since The Ashes he has comprehensively failed to deliver anything of note for the team in the last 12 months.
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