“What’s Pucovski like as a personality? I love Marnus’ hyper type personality and wonder how they’d get along.”
Hello, Ruth Purdue. He’s much more chilled out than Marnus. Not that it would be hard to be that, but mostly Pucovski seems pretty contained, aside from being a bit satirical about the senior players at training. But very quiet and focused when he’s batting. So he’s not at all shy, but not manic.
“How do you see the 4th test proceeding, if at all? The Brisbane test seems less likely day by day, and the briefings / leaks from the Indian set up seem to be gathering steam. Assuming it’s not at the Gabba, how long would it take to prepare a stand by pitch at an alternative venue? Would Victoria have them back? Maybe Manuka Oval is an option?”
Hello to David Marshall. I think we’re fine for Brisbane now. The Indian reaction was to reports that they would be confined to their rooms, but because they’ll have hotel floors to themselves they’ll actually be able to hang out in common areas with the travelling party. That all looks like it’s going ahead as planned.
Who would have thought? At the Sydney Test, of all places. A squall blows in from nowhere and the covers are pulled out. It doesn’t look like this will last long, though.
7th over: Australia 21-1 (Pucovski 14, Labuschagne 2) Pucovski keeps harvesting runs, while Labuschagne has barely had strike. Another couple of runs squeezed off the pads from Bumrah, then a neat single tucked square of mid-on after the previous ball went straight to that fielder.
6th over: Australia 18-1 (Pucovski 11, Labuschagne 2) Siraj tries the bouncer, and Pucovski gets his first Test boundary in streaky style. A fine top edge that goes high but lands safely. More convincing is his on-drive the next ball to a fuller one, picking up three. He’s into double figures on debut.
Captain John Starbuck is on the emails. “You can’t help thinking that how the Aussies perform in their first innings will be the crunch point. It isn’t always the case, especially since 2nd-innings debacles are already assumed as a distinct possibility in this series.”
5th over: Australia 11-1 (Pucovski 4, Labuschagne 2) Bumrah to Pucovski again, defending on the off stump, but playing through midwicket when Bumrah bowls straighter. The bowler thinks for a second that he’s going to nail the front pad in front of middle stump, but Pucovski gets bat on it.
4th over: Australia 8-1 (Pucovski 1, Labuschagne 2) A big moment for Siraj, breaking the opening partnership and forcing the player on debut to adjust to a new partner and the loss of a senior presence. Here comes Marnus Labuschagne, and he’s off the mark quickly by leg-glancing two.
WICKET! Warner c Pujara b Siraj 5
All that talk, and Warner falls! Siraj moves the field to indicate that he’s bowling straight, then accidentally I fancy bowls very wide. That ball starts outside off stump but keeps tailing further away. Warner has already committed to the big drive but doesn’t account for the movement, and only gets a thick edge to third slip. Gone!
3rd over: Australia 6-0 (Pucovski 1, Warner 5) Again Pucovski faces most of the over, not troubled as yet against Bumrah after Warner drops a single to cover in his usual style.
2nd over: Australia 5-0 (Pucovski 1, Warner 4) Mohammed Siraj with the new ball to partner Bumrah, and Warner gets on with things straight away! Punches off the back foot out through the covers for two runs. That makes Siraj err onto the pads and Warner glances another run. Comfortable start for him. Siraj is getting swing as well. Pucovski gets his first run in Test cricket with a nudge off his legs.
1st over: Australia 0-0 (Pucovski 0, Warner 0) Will Pucovski gets to face the first delivery and get his work underway right from the start. Bumrah has a false start with his run-up, then a rusty start with a very wide ball swinging away. He gets back on target from then on, letting Pucovski get bat on ball in defence for the first time. There is outswing for Bumrah, noticeably. Pucovski defends a few with soft hands, then receives his first short ball and shapes to play but doesn’t get it.
“Is this where the openers win the Test?” asks John. You could almost sum it up that way. Warner’s return feels hugely important for Australia – indeed, I wrote about that yesterday. Surely Steve Smith will find some runs very soon though? India too have had a shortage of runs, and it was Rahane’s outstanding innings in Melbourne that set them up to claim that Test.
We already had India’s team last night, and Australia goes as expected: dropping Travis Head to move Matthew Wade down the order and bring in a new opening partnership. “He hasn’t done a whole lot wrong, Heady, we’ve just changed the balance of our side with an all-rounder so he’s unlucky,” says Paine.
Will Pucovski (debut)
Tim Paine * +
Hanuma Vihari *
Rishabh Pant +
Navdeep Saini (debut)
Australia won the toss and will bat
The coin lands for Tim Paine again. It did so in Melbourne and that didn’t help, with India rolling the home team for 195, but Australia get another chance here.
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A new day dawns, and a new Test match approaches. This being one that is attracting more attention than most, and not just for cricket’s sake. Plenty of political argument about whether it should be going ahead in Sydney, and whether an audience should be allowed to attend. The Australian Medical Association thinks not, the New South Wales government says yes, for those keeping score. The issue is the recent spread of coronavirus in Sydney. For those in places like the UK or USA, the numbers in Australia will look tiny, but as we often see more optimistically in sport, humble beginnings can lead to things of greater magnitude.
The deal in practical terms is that the SCG is capped at a quarter capacity, which I think means 10,000 people maximum. Whether 10,000 people will still show up is another question. The MCG had a 30,000 max on Boxing Day and didn’t quite reach it.
On the cricket side of the equation, we have a series levelled at 1-1 with two matches to play. We have an Australian team desperate to stay in the hunt for a trophy after being squashed in Melbourne, and an Indian team feeling surprisingly good after the all-out 36 debacle at Adelaide not long ago. Two big names are back at the top of the order: David Warner and Rohit Sharma. But this ain’t Hyderabad v Mumbai in Abu Dhabi. They’re both back from injury in a Test match with a need to deliver right away. Two years ago, India made 600+ here and forced Australia to follow on, only stopped from winning by rain. This time around… we’re about to find out.