India v Australia preview: Hosts can seal series by maintaining Test record held since 2012

By Sports Desk March 07, 2023

After comfortable victories in the first two Tests of their home series against Australia, it looked like India would be on the way to a simple series win.

The Baggy Green came back with a vengeance in the third Test in Indore though, winning by nine wickets after limiting India to a total of just 272 runs from their two innings.

It provides more drama for the fourth and final Test, when the home team will be looking to avoid suffering defeat in multiple Test matches in a series in India for the first time in over 10 years. 

India have not lost more than once in a men's Test series on home soil since going down 2-1 to England in November-December of 2012.

The Border-Gavaskar series finishes in Ahmedabad, which has seen spin dominate in previous Tests.

Surfaces have been almost the sole subject of discussion around the matches so far, but India captain Rohit Sharma just wants to focus on playing cricket.

"Honestly the pitch talk is getting too much, every time we play in India focus is only on the pitch. We focus too much on the pitch in India," he said.

"I don't think that is necessary. Honestly speaking, these are the kind of pitches we want to play on.

"This is our strength, so when you're playing at your home, you always play to your strength, not worry about what people outside are talking about."

It was a good job Australia were able to restrict India to so few runs in the third Test, as their batters have struggled throughout the series, only scoring more than 200 in an innings once.

They have scored an average of 25.3 runs per wicket in men's Tests in 2023, their lowest rate since 1956 when they averaged just 21.6 runs per wicket.

The tourists will also be up against history, having not won multiple games within a single series in India since 1969.

Their spinners will likely be needed to step up again, with the emergence of Todd Murphy and Matthew Kuhnemann alongside Nathan Lyon proving a revelation in the third Test, with the trio taking 18 of the 20 India wickets to fall between them.

Murphy wants to make the most of it, saying: "I haven't thought too far ahead but when you look, Gaz [Lyon] is still bowling as good as he ever has so when this series does come to an end it is going to slow down a little, it's quite rare other places in the world to play two spinners."

Can Kohli rediscover form?

Virat Kohli has been unable to find his best form of late, averaging 22.2 in the series and without a half-century in five innings.

However, he has made a good connection on 82 per cent of his 219 balls faced, the highest of any player to have faced at least 60 balls this series, so just needs to find a way to translate that into more runs.

Lyon close to becoming number one tourist in India

The experienced Lyon was sensational in the last Test, particularly in the second innings as he claimed figures of 8-64.

The 35-year-old has taken 53 Test wickets in India, the second most of any visiting player in the history of the men's format, with only England's Derek Underwood (54) having taken more.

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    “The type of bowler he is is something I’m trying to work on. The way he operates in Australia on pretty flat wickets, there are times when English wickets are pretty similar.”

    England head coach Brendon McCullum said last week it would be “slightly mad” if Hartley and Shoaib Bashir were overlooked by their counties having established themselves as Test cricketers on this trip.

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    “I think it’s a bit early for that,” Hartley said. “I’ll do whatever’s best for Lancashire and the team.”

    Hartley will instead concentrate on pumping up a respectable first-class batting average of 26.19. He has demonstrated his character in recent weeks by taking the attack to Ravichandran Ashwin, thumping India’s premier spinner for four sixes in the series.

    While there may still be more to work on before he can consider himself a fully-fledged all-rounder, Hartley is determined to show he can bring value with both bat and ball.

    “I’ve made big strides in these last two years with my batting but I still feel there are gaps there and that (improving) only really comes with time at the crease,” Hartley said.

    “I think I get a bit carried away trying to hit sixes and fours. Sometimes I’ve just got to relax myself, take my time to get in and just have a bit more patience.”

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    “They’re over the moon whenever I hit a six, that’s what I get cheered for,” Hartley said. “Coming back in the dressing room, that’s what they talk to me about. It just encourages me to play more of them.”

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    Brendon McCullum urged Ollie Pope to loosen up early on in his innings but pointed out England’s vice-captain is not alone in having a reputation as a nervy starter.

    Pope has had mixed fortunes in India. A career-defining 196 underpinned a famous England triumph in Hyderabad but the number three batter has amassed a combined 89 runs in his other seven knocks.

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