Australia look to Warner and Smith in bid to regain series lead against India

By Sports Desk January 05, 2021

Australia will hope the "very likely" return of David Warner can inspire them to regain the series lead as they take on India in the third Test from Thursday.

India produced an impressive turnaround in Melbourne last time out, squaring the series at 1-1 despite being without Virat Kohli and also losing the toss.

Stand-in Ajinkya Rahane stood up in the absence of India's captain, making 112 to set the tourists up for an impressive eight-wicket victory.

However, Australia are undefeated in their last nine Tests against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Indeed, their only defeat in meetings between the teams at the venue came in January 1978.

The hosts reacted to the defeat by dropping out-of-sorts opener Joe Burns, having made just 63 runs in four innings during the series.

Warner and Will Pucovski were both injured and missed the first two Tests but head coach Justin Langer gave a positive update on the former, who he thinks will be able to play through the pain.

Uncapped prospect Pucovski, meanwhile, has passed concussion examinations so will challenge Travis Head for a place in the side.

BUBBLE CONCERN FOR INDIA

India had to isolate five members of their squad as a precaution in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Test, amid concerns over a breach of protocols within the bio-secure bubble.

Rishabh Pant, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw trained away from the rest of the squad after a video on social media showed them dining at an indoor venue in Melbourne.

However, both teams - and members of the support staff - tested negative for COVID-19 prior to travelling to Sydney to continue the four-match series.

Rohit has not featured for India on the tour so far due to injury, including missing the white-ball games that preceded the Tests, but could be involved at the SCG.

Batsman KL Rahul is out of the rest of the series with a wrist injury, ending speculation he could replace struggling Mayank Agarwal.

LANGER CONFIDENT OF SMITH RECOVERY

While the expected return of Warner could give them a boost, Australia will also be looking for a turnaround from Steve Smith.

Smith has only managed scores of 1, 0 and 8 during his completed innings in Adelaide and Melbourne, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin having him caught in two of those three dismissals.

Ranked at three in the ICC rankings, he had only failed to reach double figures in two of his 14 previous innings since returning to Test cricket in the 2019 Ashes.

"Imagine how good we'll be when he does start batting well," said a confident Langer. "That's how I look at it.

"He hasn't had the best of series so far, he'll be the first to admit that, but my gosh, what I know about great players is the longer they miss out, the sooner it is that they're coming good again.

"So that puts a big smile on my face. I don't coach Steve Smith. Steve Smith coaches himself and I'm sure he's going to work it out. 

"He is a great player and I can't wait to watch him bat this Test match and the next Test match."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- India have lost only two of their last nine Tests against Australia (W5, D2) - they now search for back-to-back wins against them for just the second time since 2013.
- Australia's loss in the second match snapped an eight-game winning run in Tests at home; they will now look to avoid consecutive home defeats for the first time since November 2016.
- The home team dropped eight catches last time out in Melbourne, their most in a single Test since dropping nine against India in the New Year's Test of 2012 in Sydney.
- Ricky Ponting (8) is the only player to have logged more centuries at the Sydney Cricket Ground than David Warner (7) in international cricket.
- No player has taken more wickets (10) or posted a better bowling economy (2.1) than India's Ravichandran Ashwin throughout this series.
- Nathan Lyon is six wickets shy of becoming just the third Australian bowler to take 400 in men's Tests (Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath); his 89 wickets against India are his most against any team.

Related items

  • Kesrick Williams engineers great  comeback in eSports series Kesrick Williams engineers great comeback in eSports series

    The third match of the Hero CPL Esports series was a topsy-turvy affair with the Kesrick Williams of the St Lucia Zouks emerging victorious against Sheldon Cottrell of St Kitts & Nevis Patriots after a brilliant come back with the ball.

  • Rashford a doubt for Man Utd's clash with Burnley, confirms Solskjaer Rashford a doubt for Man Utd's clash with Burnley, confirms Solskjaer

    Marcus Rashford is a doubt for Manchester United's Premier League clash with Burnley on Sunday, boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed.

    The England international did not make it off the substitutes' bench during United's 2-0 win over Granada on Thursday, a result which sealed a 4-0 aggregate victory to book a Europa League semi-final against Roma.

    Rashford – who is suffering from an ongoing foot injury – took his tally to 20 for the season in the first leg, making him the first United player to hit double figures in consecutive campaigns since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago.

    The 23-year-old has missed just three games for United this season and Solskajer said he will give Rashford as long as he needs to prove his fitness. 

    "It's a big bonus that he didn't have to put any pressure on his foot [against Granada]," Solskjaer told a media conference. "I have got to hope he can be available and not make it worse. That is the decision I have got to make, so fingers crossed.

    "He wasn't due to be on the bench really. He didn't train yesterday [Wednesday] but, just in case, he put his hand up and said 'if needed, I could do a job'. 

    "So, it is a decision I have got to make on Sunday morning. But he is important for us. It is a difficult one. You have to go by how Marcus feels in a couple of days."

    United host Burnley at Old Trafford looking to win five consecutive Premier League games for the first time since they won their first six under Solskjaer's leadership in January 2019. 

    While another three points would take them another step closer to sealing a top-four finish, it is unlikely to help them rein in leaders Manchester City, who have an 11-point lead over their neighbours, having played a game more. 

    Solskjaer is not prepared to write off United's title chances just yet, but he does concede it seems improbable that City will drop enough points to allow them back into the race. 

    "Of course we'll never give up," he said. "Manchester United will never, ever give up. This club has had too many setbacks and too many great comebacks to have it in our DNA. 

    "Is it realistic? No, probably not. When you have a team that is so consistent as Manchester City have been, you don't expect them to lose three games of the last six. 

    "As long as we do our job, we want to finish the season strong and go one game at a time."

    With a seven-point lead over Leicester City, United look well placed to improve on their third-placed finish last season. 

    While Solskjaer is pleased with his side's progress this term, he will not be satisfied until they have won the Premier League title for the first time since Alex Ferguson's last season in charge in 2012-13. 

    "You've got to make progress, step by step, that's the reality," he explained. "If we can manage second place and keep winning and get second, if Man City win all games and we win ours, you want to finish strongly. 

    "Third last year, second this, close to a trophy. It's progress. It's not the end game; the end game is winning the league. But we are not in the era of Sir Alex and we've had a transformation period since he left.

    "But it's progress, step by step, and if we do that well enough, that is when you get trophies and league titles which, of course, is our ambition."

  • Foden must keep showing it on the grass – Guardiola Foden must keep showing it on the grass – Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola shrugged off the suggestion Phil Foden's sensational form proves he was right to slowly ease the youngster into first-team action, insisting football is only about the present.

    Manchester City prodigy Foden made his Premier League debut in 2017-18, playing five times in total. While his talent was obvious, Guardiola was cautious with his development, opting to drop the attacker in and out of games, sometimes causing ire in the media.

    A total of 13 league appearances followed in 2018-19 before Foden truly began to establish himself last season, making 37 appearances across all competitions.

    Guardiola's cautious approach has seemingly paid off, with Foden one of City's most impressive players this campaign.

    The 20-year-old has played 41 times in total, including 29 starts. He is joint-second – alongside Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling – in City's scorers' list with 13 goals, behind Ilkay Gundogan (16); Foden's latest strike coming against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

    His tally of nine assists is bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne (16), with the Belgian (99) and Riyad Mahrez (75) the two City players to have created more chances than Foden (65).

    But asked if he can take credit for Foden's development, Guardiola insisted the England international must continue to prove himself in every game.

    "It's not about what we believed in the past, it's about what they show on the grass," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.

    "So, footballers have to show every single day. The journalists will talk a lot about the past, or the future. In football it's about the present.

    "In the present it doesn't matter what we have done, it's what we do today. Everybody is involved, talking and talking. The players have to talk on the grass.

    "It's the only way they can protect their position and win in the present and in the future. It's as simple as that.

    "Phil in that case, everything we get right now is on the grass, not in any other situations. He's going to continue being there depending on his performance, not on what he has done so far at a young age. You have to every game win something to stay in the position and playing every day."

    While Foden is thriving, one player whose form has been called into question in some quarters is Sterling, who only came on for a brief cameo towards the end against Dortmund.

    Guardiola, however, disregarded the suggestion it had to be a choice between Foden or Sterling for a spot on the left.

    "If you know a bit the trajectory of this team selection, then the answer is obvious," said Guardiola, who also confirmed Sergio Aguero will not be fit to feature at Wembley.

    "Of course they can play together, they have played many times together. Phil can play in five positions, Sterling in three positions. Everyone can play in a few positions, so it depends on them."

    Sterling has created fewer opportunities than Foden this season (45), though he has the same amount of assists, having crafted the same number of Opta-defined "big chances" (12) and both are over-performing their expected assists to a similar degree.

     

    Foden has a slightly better shot conversion rate – 16.1 per cent compared to 15.7 – though has attempted two fewer (81 compared to 83) attempts than the former Liverpool winger.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.