(Australian Associated Press)
BURNING QUESTIONS AHEAD OF THE SECOND TEST IN PERTH
1) How vulnerable is Australia’s top order right now?
Aaron Finch fell cheaply in his first audition as a Test opener in home conditions. Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja were unable to go on with starts while Shaun Marsh scored 60 in the second innings after a loose dismissal in the first dig. Most worryingly of all, the 50-run partnership between Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins was Australia’s highest for the match. But there simply aren’t that many options in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner. Finch is set to be backed in an opener alongside hometown boy Harris, allowing Khawaja and Marsh to remain in their preferred positions.
2) How much of a concern is Mitchell Starc’s form?
Starc’s wayward second-innings bowling was heavily dissected, with former pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson unimpressed with his body language. The Australian camp were circumspect, noting that Starc – while tired and sore at times – had bowled reasonably well apart from a couple of bad spells. The left-armer is a world-class bowler and a match- winner at his best with a lot of credits in the bank. The new Perth Stadium pitch is expected to be conducive to swing and could allow Starc to cash in.
3) Is it time to bring in an allrounder?
It’s virtually assured that Australia will turn to Mitch Marsh at some point in the series to give the frontline quicks a chop out. Will it be in Perth? A three-day turnaround between Tests could tempt selectors to make a change. But they’ll also be mindful of the Perth Stadium curator’s bullish predictions that the pitch will be a fast bowler’s paradise not dissimilar to the WACA’s glory days. Marsh didn’t light the world on fire when he was sent back to Sheffield Shield and a recall on flatter pitches in Melbourne and Sydney is more likely.
4) Will India change a winning formula?
Hard to see the tourists making any unnecessary changes with momentum on their side. Reserve paceman Umesh Yadav is capable of hitting 150km/h and was man of the match in India’s last Test before the Australia series, while swing demon Bhuvneshwar Kumar would also offer India’s attack a different dimension. Batting prodigy Prithvi Shaw is unlikely to recover from an ankle injury in time for the Perth Test, leaving Murali Vijay and KL Rahul safe at the top of the order.
5) What about the Kohli factor?
The superstar batsman didn’t have a huge impact on the scoreboard in Adelaide with scores of three and 34. But Virat Kohli’s fingerprints were all over an Indian side which played with swagger. Adelaide showed that Kohli doesn’t have to fire for India to win down under. Man of the match Cheteshwar Pujara batted at a level above everyone else while Ajinkya Rahane also contributed important runs. Kohli’s jubliant reaction when India won the first Test showed how much this series means to him and Australia can expect nothing short of maximum intensity from him.