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Australia Face Stern Indian Test in Series Opener

Ever since Rahul David and VVS Laxman defied Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath for an entire day in 2001, test matches between India and Australia have taken on renewed meaning. That series is often used in the same breath as the Ashes 2005 in discussions about the greatest ever series.

The Australian, Indian rivalry is drama, romance and controversy rolled into one. Games in the uncomfortable heat of the subcontinent on dry turning pitches somehow flip the Australian batsman’s skills to the extent that Shaun Marsh becomes one of their better players. And, in Australia, booze soaked fans in Bay 13 get involved in heated sledging battles with Virat Kohli on behalf of their team’s bowlers.

There’s nothing quite like it. And we can’t wait for the four match test series to begin on Thursday in Pune.

The Last Time These Two Met

Since 2004/05 neither of these two sides has managed to win a series away from home. In fact, a series win aboard has only got harder as the teams and respective groundsman seek to produce wickets that complement the home sides competencies.

Moreover, in the last four series encounters between the two, dating back to 2008, the away side hasn’t managed to win a game. The history is starting to look like clean sheet football scores.

The most recent meeting was down under in the 2014/15 season. India was actually very brave in that series and the 2-0 scoreline was a little unkind to them. However, if we’re going to compare apples with apples, we should look at the last time these two played in Indian conditions.

That was in 2012 and was won 4-0 by India. It was an Australian debacle under Mickey Arthur that’s become famous for the homework scandal that’s had a fair bit of publicity in autobiographies recently. India won the games in that series by 8 wickets; an innings and 135 runs; 6 wickets; and, 6 wickets respectively.

The Teams

India (from):

Virat Kohli (capt), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav

India is relatively well-settled and shouldn’t make too many changes to the team that comprehensively beat England.

Australia (from)

Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon

The Australian selectors have three decisions to make. In the opening position do they opt for the promising Matt Renshaw, or the sub continent experienced (and successful), Shaun Marsh. If Renshaw is chosen, then Marsh will bat in the middle order, possibly at the expense of Usman Khawaja. Khawaja’s absence also frees up room to play an all-rounder at six – should that be Mitchell Marsh or Glenn Maxwell?

The Key Players

India

Like there is anyone else we could feature in this section. Virat Kohli. While Ravi Ashwin is almost as important to this team, Kohli is the talisman who is crucial to setting his side’s tone against the confrontational Australians. He gives his team belief and that’s worth more than any of the runs he scores. He’ll probably get some runs too, though. He averages over 56 against the Aussies at home, and his recent run of form reads 204, 15, 235, 6*, 62, 81, 167, 49* – not bad.

Australia

Just like Kohli is important for the home side, Steven Smith is too for his (this section should be called Captains, not Key Players). Smith’s only played two test matches in India, but he has tons of experience through the IPL and in other sub-continent nations. Smith will need big runs in this series and signs are looking good after his warm up 107 against India A.

The Match Odds*

India – $1.60

Draw – $3.80

Australia – $5.50

*All odds from Sportsbet.

The Prediction

During England’s recent tour of India, they scored over 400 batting first three times out of five and still lost 4-0. The trouble was those big scores only got them a first innings lead on one occasion. India was and are simply too good at compelling huge totals on their favoured surface. And once they do, their spinners will make things close to impossible in the second innings. India will win by 8 wickets or 130 runs.

The Best Bets

Cheteshwar Pujara is in good form (two hundreds and three fifties against England) and could go big again. He’s at $3.75 to go all the way to three figures.

Peter Handscombe scored fifties at will in the Australian home summer, if he can do it again here, he’ll return you $2.88.

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