Australia look to Warner and Smith in bid to regain series lead against India

By Sports Desk January 05, 2021

Australia will hope the "very likely" return of David Warner can inspire them to regain the series lead as they take on India in the third Test from Thursday.

India produced an impressive turnaround in Melbourne last time out, squaring the series at 1-1 despite being without Virat Kohli and also losing the toss.

Stand-in Ajinkya Rahane stood up in the absence of India's captain, making 112 to set the tourists up for an impressive eight-wicket victory.

However, Australia are undefeated in their last nine Tests against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Indeed, their only defeat in meetings between the teams at the venue came in January 1978.

The hosts reacted to the defeat by dropping out-of-sorts opener Joe Burns, having made just 63 runs in four innings during the series.

Warner and Will Pucovski were both injured and missed the first two Tests but head coach Justin Langer gave a positive update on the former, who he thinks will be able to play through the pain.

Uncapped prospect Pucovski, meanwhile, has passed concussion examinations so will challenge Travis Head for a place in the side.

BUBBLE CONCERN FOR INDIA

India had to isolate five members of their squad as a precaution in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Test, amid concerns over a breach of protocols within the bio-secure bubble.

Rishabh Pant, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw trained away from the rest of the squad after a video on social media showed them dining at an indoor venue in Melbourne.

However, both teams - and members of the support staff - tested negative for COVID-19 prior to travelling to Sydney to continue the four-match series.

Rohit has not featured for India on the tour so far due to injury, including missing the white-ball games that preceded the Tests, but could be involved at the SCG.

Batsman KL Rahul is out of the rest of the series with a wrist injury, ending speculation he could replace struggling Mayank Agarwal.

LANGER CONFIDENT OF SMITH RECOVERY

While the expected return of Warner could give them a boost, Australia will also be looking for a turnaround from Steve Smith.

Smith has only managed scores of 1, 0 and 8 during his completed innings in Adelaide and Melbourne, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin having him caught in two of those three dismissals.

Ranked at three in the ICC rankings, he had only failed to reach double figures in two of his 14 previous innings since returning to Test cricket in the 2019 Ashes.

"Imagine how good we'll be when he does start batting well," said a confident Langer. "That's how I look at it.

"He hasn't had the best of series so far, he'll be the first to admit that, but my gosh, what I know about great players is the longer they miss out, the sooner it is that they're coming good again.

"So that puts a big smile on my face. I don't coach Steve Smith. Steve Smith coaches himself and I'm sure he's going to work it out. 

"He is a great player and I can't wait to watch him bat this Test match and the next Test match."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- India have lost only two of their last nine Tests against Australia (W5, D2) - they now search for back-to-back wins against them for just the second time since 2013.
- Australia's loss in the second match snapped an eight-game winning run in Tests at home; they will now look to avoid consecutive home defeats for the first time since November 2016.
- The home team dropped eight catches last time out in Melbourne, their most in a single Test since dropping nine against India in the New Year's Test of 2012 in Sydney.
- Ricky Ponting (8) is the only player to have logged more centuries at the Sydney Cricket Ground than David Warner (7) in international cricket.
- No player has taken more wickets (10) or posted a better bowling economy (2.1) than India's Ravichandran Ashwin throughout this series.
- Nathan Lyon is six wickets shy of becoming just the third Australian bowler to take 400 in men's Tests (Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath); his 89 wickets against India are his most against any team.

Related items

  • French Open: Swiatek eases past Riske to extend stunning winning run French Open: Swiatek eases past Riske to extend stunning winning run

    Iga Swiatek again showed relentless form to ease past Alison Riske and book her place in the third round of the French Open on Thursday.

    The number one seed stormed to a 6-0 6-2 victory on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, and will now face Danka Kovinic – the latest woman to attempt to halt the WTA Tour's winning machine.

    Chasing her 30th straight win, there was an ominous start from Swiatek, who sealed the first set in just 20 minutes as Riske won just seven points.

    Swiatek was ruthless as she sped through the games, winning all three break points against Riske to get halfway to victory in double quick time.

    The American tried to fight back at the start of the second, but Swiatek seemed to move up a gear every time her opponent was able to win a point, breaking again in the second game.

    Riske reached deuce in the next game, before finally holding serve to get herself on the board to a big cheer from the crowd.

    The world number 43 showed more fight as she held serve again, but Swiatek's power and shot placement was ultimately too much as she motored to victory.

    The 2020 champion has now won 39 matches this year (including Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers), three more than her tally for the entire 2021 season.

    Data Slam: Dominant Swiatek

    Swiatek's win here makes her just the fourth player this century to win 30 or more consecutive matches. She also won 85 per cent of points on her first serve (22 of 26) and did not face any break points.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Swiatek – 23/15
    Riske – 6/14

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Swiatek – 1/1
    Riske – 2/2

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Swiatek – 5/9
    Riske – 0/0

  • Former U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie West to step away from LPGA Tour at 32 Former U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie West to step away from LPGA Tour at 32

    Michelle Wie West, the teenage prodigy who went on to win the U.S. Women's Open, has announced she intends to step away from the LPGA Tour.

    The Hawaii-born player, who burst onto the scene as a 10-year-old when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, will play just two more competitive events.

    Wie West, who gave birth to her first child in 2020, is now 32 and has only played once on the LPGA Tour this year, at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January.

    She will play the U.S. Women's Open next week and also next year, but that may be it for her as a professional golfer.

    "Excited to announce the next phase of my career as I'll be stepping back from playing on the @lpga_tour full time," Wie said on Instagram on Thursday. "I'm so grateful for the past 14 years I spent on tour, travelling the world and competing against the best in the game.

    "Excited to spend more time now on projects that I always wanted to do but never had time for and to continually work to help golf become a more diverse and inclusive space."

    She will work with Nike on golf projects and could yet one day make a playing return, but for now Wie West is done with the grind of the tour.

    "I don't have any regrets because I feel like I've always learned from every mistake that I've made," Wie West told Golfweek.

    "I feel like even if it was a huge major fail, at least it makes for a good story now. I think if I hadn't won the U.S. Open, I'd still be out there competing week to week trying to get that U.S. Open win."

    She said she felt "very happy in my decision".

    Tipped to be the Tiger Woods of the LPGA Tour as a teenager, Wie West was a record breaker during school, setting a series of impressive benchmarks and raising the profile of the women's game.

    At 14, she carded the lowest score ever by a woman competing on the PGA Tour with a 68 at the Sony Open, and turned professional just before her 16th birthday.

    Injuries hampered her progress despite a slew of major sponsorships, but she fought back in 2014 to claim her only major, in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

    Wie West won four other LPGA events during her career, most recently the HSBC Women's World Championship in 2018.

    Despite stepping away from the tour, she has refused to call it a retirement, adding: "I'm definitely not ruling anything out."

  • Battling lower order ton from Archibald, McSween four-for sets up keen battle between Leewards, Windwards in Port of Spain Battling lower order ton from Archibald, McSween four-for sets up keen battle between Leewards, Windwards in Port of Spain

    A battling lower-order ton from Leeward Islands Hurricanes Colin Archibald and a four-wicket haul from Windward Island Hurricanes bowler Preston McSween typified the see-saw nature of the battle between the franchises in the West Indies Championship, at Port of Spain, on Wednesday.

    Batting first, the Hurricanes seemed set for a below-par total after losing wickets at regular intervals at the top of the order.  The top three of Montcin Hodge, Kieron Powell, and Ross Powell were removed with just 65 runs on the board.  Devon Thomas was next to go just two overs later and was, like Powell before him, bowled by the excellent McSween.

    Jahmar Hamilton paired with Terrance Ward to add a respectable 47 for the 6th wicket but the partnership came to an end when Hamilton was caught, attempting to pull Kenneth Dember.  Rahkeem Cornwall managed to add just one run before becoming McSween’s 3rd wicket and the writing seemed on the wall when the bowler returned to pick up the valued wicket of Ward a few overs later.

    Archibald’s brutal 104 from just 97 deliveries, at the bottom of the order, however, changed the complexion of the innings entirely.  At the close of play, the batsman remained not-out at the crease and was partnered by Daniel Doram on 17 from 69 deliveries.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.