Brittle batting hiding more troubling issue
MUCH has been made about Australia's brittle batting line-up but Australia's fearsome bowling unit has been completely out played by India's less fancied attack.
Plus, Aaron Finch and Mitch Marsh expose more issues for Australia. Here are our third Test BURNING QUESTIONS.
WHAT TO DO WITH AARON FINCH?
If you're getting a sense of deja vu, it's because the same question was posed after the first Test in Adelaide. The Victorian did his best to quieten the noise with a 50 in Perth, but at the MCG, his home ground, Finch looked anything but a Test opener. It almost seems certain he won't come out first when Australia bats at the SCG. So does that mean a drop down the order, or a complete exit from the team? Former national selector Mark Waugh said he "wouldn't put a line through" Finch just yet. But if he does drop to five or six, and still can't get runs, it might be a Test career that ends when the home summer does, if not sooner.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER BATSMEN?
Not a single century from any batter in three completed Tests paints a horrid picture of the Australian batting landscape. Only three players, Usman Khawaja, as well as Shaun and Mitch Marsh, have reached triple figures in Tests, but they seem like a lifetime ago. The Australian return of four Test hundreds in a calendar year is the worst for a decade. There are five batsmen going around in domestic scene who have Test tons - Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade. Would any of them fare better right now? Handscomb had four innings against India and didn't look likely. The Queenslanders loom as next in line. More decisions are likely after the Sydney Test, but decisions have to be made.
ARE THE INDIAN BOWLERS BETTER THAN OURS?
The wickets tally through three Tests, and through 2018, says yes, which is a huge surprise. But that's not the sole reason they are on top. The tourists have taken 58 wickets, Australia's four-man front line attack just 55. The Indian quicks especially are far more accurate and consistent, beginning with Jasprit Bumrah who has all the Australian batsmen thinking twice. Even without their own spin king Ravi Ashwin, India has continued to pile pressure on with well thought out plans and near perfect execution. They have found swing too, which Mitch Starc in particular has struggled to muster. Australia's attack actually has the worst bowling average of any team in Test cricket this year. And without the efforts of Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon in this series, the Aussies could be in even more trouble.
IS INDIA'S CONFIDENCE TOO HARD TO COMBAT?
Australia at home used to waltz through the summer with a strut that suggested we were unbeatable. But the Indians, starting with captain Virat Kohli, have all the swagger of an outfit that believes they are the best team in the world, which the rankings say they are. No team is a better frontrunner than India, usually at home where every ball their bowlers bowl nearly takes a wicket, and every shot, even a single, is cheered like it's the match-winning runs. It's feeling that way in Australia right now too, the constant, up-beat chirp from behind and around the stumps, the big smiles, the glares. India is well and truly on top of an insecure Australian unit.
DOES MITCH MARSH DESERVE TO HOLD HIS SPOT?
Australian coach Justin Langer continues to talk up the value of Mitch Marsh and will tell anyone who wants to listen that his first-class batting efforts this summer, plus his two hundreds last summer, showed he was up to Test level. But his past 13 innings for Australia say otherwise. The younger Marsh's 10 second-innings runs took his batting average across that time to 10. Sure he bowled 26 crucial overs in Melbourne, but crucial only in workload. He didn't take a wicket and a spinner like Glenn Maxwell, who is a much better batsman, could have been just as effective. Even with his two Test hundreds, Marsh's batting average is only 26. The man he replaced, Handscomb, also has two Test tons, and an average of just under 40.