India won the 1st test by 31 runs, their first win since 2008, their sixth overall in Australia, and the first time they’ve ever won the first test of a series in Australia, and now they are 1-0 up in a 4 test series with every hope of winning the series. If they can win the 2nd test then they will just need a draw in one of the last two to win the series. A loss will bring it back to 1-1 and Australia will suddenly be favourites to win the series again. This test match is a big deal, and it is the first time ever that any team is playing at Perth Stadium. The last time before Adelaide that India won in Australia was at the WACA in 2008.
Pitch and conditions:
So far we have had 6 Sheffield Shield matches and 2 one day internationals at Perth Stadium and the general consensus is that it is playing like a bigger version of the WACA but without the wind. The WACA was a ground that was very bowler friendly, especially for pace bowlers, with the wind offering the only hope for spin bowlers, and most teams, both Australian and overseas, going all-pace. In the two ODIs played, a total of 3 spin bowlers were used, with Australia going all-pace in the 2nd ODI. Spin bowlers picked up a combined total of 6 out of the 34 wickets to fall. Put simply, there is precious little reason to pick a spin bowler unless they are a lot better than the pace bowlers. Curiously, the only time that a team played without a spin bowler, when Australia took on South Africa in October, they suffered the biggest loss of the two.
While there was speculation that one or more of Aaron Finch (form), Tim Paine (finger injury), Mitchell Starc (form) and Nathan Lyon (due to it not being spin friendly) might miss out for Australia, to be replaced by Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey and Chris Tremain and/or Peter Siddle, Australia have surprisingly named an unchanged side.
Australia: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Tim Paine (c) (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India, on the other hand, have announced otherwise unknown injuries to both Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin, who have both been left out of the XIII, replaced by three players, namely batsman Hanuma Vihari, spin bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They have not announced which of the three will be dropped, though it is speculated that the one to miss out will likely be Jadeja, and India may go all pace for the first time in a year on a pitch not expected to take any spin whatsoever. However, India may also choose to pick both, to go with 5 bowlers, as India had done on a regular basis for most of the past 3 years, meaning that Vihari may miss out. Given Jadeja’s batting prowess, playing him as a batting all-rounder may be reasonable.
India: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), 2 of Hanuma Vihari/Ravindra Jadeja/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami
Players to watch:
Usman Khawaja failed somewhat in Adelaide, but is still in great form and the Perth Stadium pitch may give him the time to make really big. While Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh are more familiar with the Perth Stadium, or at least its predecessor, the WACA, it is Usman Khawaja who Australia will be relying on the most to make a big score.
Mitchell Starc has been under a lot of pressure for his place after another lacklustre performance, albeit one in which he took 5 wickets at an average of 20, compared to Ishant Sharma’s 3 wickets at an average of 30, which was said to be good bowling. Perhaps figures don’t always tell the tale but arguably Starc bowled better than Ishant in Adelaide. Perth should be ideal for Starc’s ultra-fast bowling and if he fails here then he might find himself dropped come Melbourne and Sydney, with the likes of Jackson Bird coming through and James Pattinson returning from injury. Starc should do well here, and might pick up 10 wickets in quick time but he might not. This will be critical not only for his own future but also for Australia’s chances in the test.
Virat Kohli may have had low scores in Adelaide, but he is still India’s main batsman – that title hasn’t magically transferred to Cheteshwar Pujara after one good test match. Kohli can expect to be targeted again and at Perth it will be that much harder for Kohli to resist but if he can somehow manage it then India may yet have a chance on a venue that is otherwise difficult for them.
Jasprit Bumrah was by far the best of India’s bowlers in Adelaide and looks like being the only one likely to succeed at the new Perth Stadium, which looks like being an unforgiving surface for all but the best fast bowlers.
At Adelaide Oval, India successfully reviewed incorrectly being given out three times (twice to Pujara and once to Rahane) for a combined total of 149 extra runs, while Australia successfully reviewed incorrectly being given out twice (once to Aaron Finch and once to Pat Cummins) for a combined total of 39 extra runs, a difference of 110 runs. On top of that, Australia failed to review one incorrect not out decision (to Pujara) at a cost of 33 runs, and failed to review two incorrect out decisions (once to Aaron Finch and once to Josh Hazlewood). The difference between the two teams was DRS, to the tune of 143 runs, plus however many more Finch and Hazlewood would have scored, perhaps 200 runs total, compared to the margin of 31 runs, suggesting that, had DRS not existed, Australia would have won by around 170 runs (or 5 wickets). While everyone is talking about good batting, good bowling, bad batting and bad bowling, they are forgetting what was the important battle in Adelaide. If India can continue to utilise DRS and Australia continue to use it badly, then this test will be closer than it should be, but I suspect that this will even out in Perth.
Australia don’t always win at the WACA and have lost both ODIs at Perth Stadium, but they were against teams who are used to these kinds of conditions, in England and South Africa, while India are very different. India are not expected to have much of a chance on form but, with that one win under their belt, perhaps they can intimidate their way into a win.
My prediction: Australia by an innings and 200 runs.