Ghosts of past visit Aussies' Test warm-up | cricket.com.au

Advertisement

Ghosts of past visit Aussies' Test warm-up

After a satisfactory opening two days, some worryingly familiar patterns emerged for the tourists in Mumbai

If Australia is to reverse a disturbing decade-long trend of Test match failures in Asia, they have already identified the lessons learned from last year's Sri Lanka disaster as integral to that quest.

However, on the final day of a previously satisfactory three-day tour match in Mumbai – the sole warm-up fixture in India prior to the first of four Tests starting next Thursday – several worryingly familiar patterns bobbled to the surface.

The game against a young, largely uncapped India A outfit boasting an average age of around 23, ended as an inevitable stalemate with Australia gaining some final session batting practice to finish their second innings at 4-110.

But before the mutually agreed end point was reached half an hour before stumps was scheduled, the tourists' spinners came in for some all-too-painfully-familiar punishment from a couple of upstarts and the reshuffled top-order showed some disconcerting vulnerability against seam more so than spin.

Quick Single: Mumbai wrap - day three

Australia's traditional Achilles heel in this neck of the woods.

On balance, the tour game delivered as much as these glorified centre-wicket practice sessions can ideally promise.

The batters enjoyed a useful if not always exacting hit-out against some enthusiastic if not-regularly threatening bowling, and the bowlers got through some work that might prove instructive for the Tests ahead.

The batting would have reached the 150-over benchmark set as the minimum standard for the team's first innings in India had Smith not – with a nod to the restricted time frame of the tour match – declared it closed at seven-down after 127.

Where the concerns began to settle was in the first hour, after Steve O'Keefe and Mitchell Marsh added their names to the list of wicket-takers and reduced the home team to 6-234.

Less than half way to their notional first innings target of 469.

However, as was the case in all three Tests in Sri Lanka – all of which were won by the underdog hosts – the bottom half of the rival batting order first wriggled loose and then cut loose.

Warner backs Lyon, Renshaw after tour match

It was the recurrence of an unpleasant theme for skipper Smith who watched the carnage unfold from his vantage point at first slip.

In the first Test at Pallekele last July, Sri Lanka recovered from 4-86 to post 353; the next week in Galle it was 5-98 that became 237; and then – most tellingly – in Colombo a first-innings scoreline of 5-26 blew out to 355.

The recurrent pattern in those failures was the ability of a free-scoring batsman showing no fear to swing the momentum as surely as he scattered the field.

So it was today as 22-year-old Shreyas Iyer, already touted as a future India player in red and white ball formats and surely closer to that honour after batting unbowed for more than five hours to remain 202 not out.

His highest score in a first-class career that started barely two years ago and in which he is already averaging in excess of 50, a talent that's clearly matched by a temperament that seems ready-made for international cricket.

Quick Single: Starc to miss IPL, Smith replaces Dhoni

Certainly the barbs thrown at him on Saturday evening by Australia opponents who tried to goad him by suggesting his aggressive approach meant he was unable to defend his wicket proved counter-productive.

Not only did he prove impenetrable, he was equally belligerent and his mood was caught by batting partner K Gowtham, the number eight better known as an off-spinner (who mysteriously didn't bowl in Australia's first innings because of a hamstring twinge) and who came to crease with a first-class batting average of just 19.

The pair then set about Australia's spinners, first O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon and then Glenn Maxwell who was summoned to the attack after 66 overs as the seventh-wicket partnership ballooned beyond 50.

And at a rapidly escalating clip.

In the half hour before lunch, the pair launched themselves at Lyon whose six overs prior to the break cost 57 runs and yielded five sixes, most of them over the truncated straight boundary imperilling the Cricket Club of India's well-heeled members enjoying Sunday lunch in the pavilion.

Quick wrap: Gunaratne steals miracle T20I win

By the break, their union had yielded 113 runs from 19.1 overs, the sort of rate more usually associated with the impending IPL season that is dominating cricket talk in India.

And which might have swung the balance of this match, had it been anything more meaningful than a warm-up fixture.

Lyon has spoken in the past about the disdain he feels for tour games, where batters with little to wager other than bragging rights swing hard and often with their regard for their wicket commensurate with the consequence of the outcome.

In the recent past he has suffered that indignity at venues as disparate as Colombo (0-72 off 13 overs), Northampton (3-93 off 19), Chelmsford (0-136 off 22) and Antigua (2-87 off 28).

His frustration at the treatment meted out to him today became obvious when Gowtham arrived at the crease and began thrashing, showing no signs of the ailment that prevented him bowling a single ball in those 127 overs sent down to the Australians.

"He (Lyon) was not that happy when Gowtham came in and started attacking him ... and he was asking me 'who is he?'," Iyer revealed at his second post-match press conference in as many days when he ditched the established 'what happens on the field stays there' convention regarding in-match chat.

"I told him he's an off-spinner, and later on he (Lyon) also asked me 'was he acting while fielding?'. He wasn't that happy."

Quick Single: India A batsmen spurred by verbals

That displeasure peaked when Maxwell settled under a mishit slog sweep from Gowtham when he was 14, and not only managed to spill a chance he would catch every other time, but saw it burst through his cupped hands and across the boundary rope.

The squandering of valuable chances was another recurrence of the Sri Lanka tour that needed amending, and that was underscored when the tailender went on to reach 74 from 68 balls faced and India A crested 400.

When Australia returned to bat an hour after lunch, their ambition would have been surely to avoid the regular calamity of wickets lost in clumps that dogged their second digs in Sri Lanka.

But in the 14 overs prior to tea they lost Matthew Renshaw, skittled by a ball that looked to shave the inside edge before crashing into the stumps, and Maxwell who was clean bowled for one after being elevated to number three after batting for just half an hour in the first innings.

Those two quick wickets were followed immediately after tea by the departure of Warner, slicing a catch to gully for another useful score (35) cut short of meaningful.

Quick Single: Gunaratne epic steals series win for SL

And at 3-59 with a full session to play, some of the locals who had taken advantage of the free entry at the non-pavilion end began to sense an unlikely home-team win.

Which was effectively snuffed out by O'Keefe preparing for a possible role as Test nightwatchman by surviving more than two hours for his 19 runs, and Peter Handscomb who benefited from another stint in the middle to post 37 before he holed out.

To an opposition spinner so part-time he spent much of yesterday's play in the role of India A wicketkeeper.

As the Australians packed up and prepared for their short (about 20 minutes) flight to Pune where the first Test starts on Thursday, they might have felt reasonably pleased with the outcomes across the three days.

Though the reminders of how quickly a campaign can rattle off the rails were there as untimely apparitions that will remain fresh in their minds.