The first test match between Australia and India kicks off in Adelaide tomorrow. Much has been written in the prelude of this test match following the passing of Phil Hughes and it goes without saying that there will be some extra emotions in play in this game (and frankly for some time to come). Obviously, the players’ reactions to said emotions will be key to how this game plays out. With that caveat in place, here are my five key questions I think will be answered during this test match:
1. There is aggressive and then there is abuse: which will it be from Australia?
I have lamented much of late of a troubling move in cricket away from aggressive play and toward the outright abuse of opponents on the field by the Australians. This unseemly approach has put many fans, myself included, off. I wrote last week (https://shumpty77.com/2014/12/03/vale-phil-hughes-cricket-will-never-be-the-same-again/ ) about my hope that the tragedy of Phil Hughes’ passing might lead to the players being kinder to each other on the field. It will be interesting to see if the unseemly edge to the Australian’s game has been smoothed.
2. Who will bowl the first bouncer and when will that be?
Short pitched bowling has long been part of the game of cricket. Talk of a bouncer ban or even a reduction in the number of legal bouncers allowed per over has disappointed to say the least. At some point a bouncer will be bowled because strategically that is the best thing for the bowling team in that moment. Frankly though I am an advocate of getting the first bouncer out of the way in the first over the game. Bowling an early bouncer gets it out of the way and the game can start to return to normal.
3. Can Chris Rogers find some runs and get to the Ashes in 2015?
I am a massive fan of Chris Rogers: his career and its late resurgence is a great story of perseverance. Simply put though: he is the batter under the most pressure in the Australian line up and needs runs to hold off those waiting in the wings. At his age every test could be his last and finishing by being dropped is not the end any genuine cricket fan would want for this ornament of the game.
4. Will Nathan Lyon attack or revert to the usual plan?
Nathan Lyon’s position in the team has to be in doubt: he bowled well but without wickets in series against Pakistan on wickets helping spin bowlers. All to often he was thrust into a defensive role with defensive fields that lead to him leaking both pressure and runs. To succeed against the Indians, to me, Lyon and Clarke need to attack when he bowls. From over the wicket he needs to bowl a line a foot outside of off spin and give the ball a rip. Clarke needs to set him a field around the bat and needs to eschew the urge to put fields back on the boundary. Lyon is a quality off spinner: we need to treat him as such to help him get some wickets. If he does not, or is not allowed to, attack Australia will be looking for a new spinner come the end of this series if not earlier.
5. Is this Brad Haddin’s last stand?
When Ian Healy was replaced in the team by Adam Gilchrist it came after two series (West Indies and Zimbabwe) of reduced production with the willow and behind the stumps. Haddin was down on form in the series against Pakistan and will need a productive series here to leave the team on his own terms given the quality wicketkeepers who are waiting in the wings.
This will be a fascinating test match and start to the series. Australia v India is nearly as big a series as the Ashes. I will be watching with interest to see how things play out.