The Boxing Day test match at Melbourne has limped into its final day, with India needing two more wickets for a convincing and thoroughly deserved victory. India claimed an extra half hour to try to finish things today but were unable to do so.
INDIA SECOND INNINGS – 54-5 OVERNIGHT TO 106-8D
AUSTRALIA SECOND INNINGS 258-8
Australia’s main batting performed like a squad of “Wattos“ – most of them got some sort of start but none went on to a significant score. Then that man Cummins showed that his abilities are not entirely restricted to bowling – he is not a genuine allrounder but his batting is definitely a cut above that of the out and out tailender – he finished the day on 61 not out, the only Aussie fifty of the match. Nathan Lyon at number ten held out for over an hour, which should have had some his supposed betters squirming as well.
Bumrah added two wickets to his first innings six, equalling a record match aggregate for an Indian paceman in Australia (Kapil Dev twice took eight in a game there and Ajit Agarkar achieved the feat once). Ravindra Jadeja picked up three wickets with his left arm spin and Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami also struck.
India deserve to be on the brink of victory, and Cummins’ late defiance will end up enhancing the entertainment value of the match but not affecting its result.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UPCOMING ASHES SERIES
This English season the Aussies come calling to resume the oldest grudge match in international sport. Based on their unconvincing efforts against India at home and England’s triumph in Sri Lanka I make the home side heavy favourites, probably to win with a very comfortable margin of superiority.
Looking at the match at the MCG prompted some thoughts about England’s bowling options for this series, and I have arrived at the following:
- England need at least one bowler who can produce vicious pace in their squad – which means that the Norfolk born Olly Stone gets the nod from me.
- James Anderson, who in the veteran stage of his career no longer has the pace but has ringcraft in spades is of course a guaranteed selection.
- At least one other specialist pace bowler will be required to support the first two.
- After their triumphs in Sri Lanka it is hard to look beyond Rashid and Leach for the front-line spin bowling roles at present.
- If his head is in the right place Ben Stokes could be useful as back up bowler but should not be considered for a front-line bowling slot.
- I am largely happy with the front-line batting for England, with Ben Foakes having made the keepers role his own and Bairstow now surely ensconced as no 3. I am not entirely happy about the continuing presence of Jennings but he did make runs in Sri Lanka and the Sutcliffe Super Radical Solution (Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance among the men) is not going be adopted any time soon.
As against this Australia are short of both form and confidence, and with the honourable exception of Usman Khawaja have no front-line batsman who is currently scoring with any consistency.
Thomas’s predicted Ashes outcome: England 4 Australia 1 (I do not believe that these Aussies are sufficiently bad as to be left winless but England look better in all departments).
Finally for those who have reached the end of this post here are some pictures from my “Cabinet of Curiosities”: