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Perth pitch no guaranteed perk for Aussies

12th December, 2018
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Expert
12th December, 2018
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The overwhelming rhetoric that the Optus Stadium wicket will suit Australia’s bowlers over India’s conveniently ignores what happened in Adelaide and the pace qualities of the tourists in general.

Word of a green WACA reincarnation dropped into the middle of the plush new stadium has fans salivating. Bouncers flying over the keepers’ heads, chin music played on repeat – advantage Australia.

Dealing in facts, however, and it’s not so simple. According to data crunchers CricViz, Australia’s average pace was just one kilometre per hour faster than India during the Adelaide test (142.6km/h to 141.6km/h).

In all other metrics – average swing, average seam, ‘good line’ and ‘good length’ – India had the hosts’ measure.

Should they repeat those efforts in Perth, the troubles they will cause Australia’s batsmen will outweigh the impact Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have on Virat Kohli and co.

While the data is insightful, it is hardly requisite to tell the story of the first Test.

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We knew of India’s vast improvement in the pace department, but seeing – on home soil – is believing.

Their vaunted pace attack, with a depth better than it’s ever been, was simply more effective than the Aussie seamers.

For all the talk of the Australian pace trio’s ability to bump their opponents, a tactic used effectively against England last summer, the short ball yielded no Indian top-seven wickets.

On the flip side, its use by Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma arguably won India the game.

Shami’s short ball that successfully rushed Peter Handscomb at a key juncture late on Day 4 and forced the Victorian to play a placid pull straight to mid-wicket.

Even more pertinent was Ishant’s brutish bouncer into the gloves of Travis Head early on Day 5, which largely extinguished Australia’s remaining hope.

A foreign side – subcontinental nonetheless – out-bumping the Aussie bowlers? You wouldn’t read about it. Except now you are.

Jasprit Bumrah, who clocked the game’s fastest delivery at 153 kilometres per hour, has a unique action that hurries almost all batsmen.

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His potential impact on a grassy Perth deck alone should temper fans’ excitement of a home rout.

Australia might get the 1970s-style WACA deck they’re after, but there’s no guarantee it will benefit them more than the tourists.

If curator Brett Sipthorpe delivers the wicket he’s promised, this will certainly create tough conditions for India’s batsmen.

For that, there’s no doubt, and the Aussie pace trio could cause havoc.

But whether the advantage it gives Australia is greater than the advantage India’s seamers can extract from the drop-in track is another question altogether.

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Sipthorpe has also said it could be a short test due to the bowler-friendly conditions.

If this is the case, it’s not out of the question that Australia could roll India for under 200.

Along the same line, however, it’s equally easy to foretell India skittling the hosts for under 150 given its current batting travails.

On a separate note, the prospect of another low-scoring Test should excite Australian fans accustomed to dour decks in recent times.

Low-scoring Tests are consistently the most spellbinding, and it’s no coincidence the strong TV numbers from Adelaide came off the back off a bowler-dominated clash.

When they’re in the action, the game thrives.

Mitchell Starc emerged as the sole bowling worry for Australia out of Adelaide. His accuracy was well down, landing just 21.7 per cent of balls in CricViz’s ‘good line and length’ metric during overs 1-30.

This is considerably less than Cummins (34.7 per cent) and Hazlewood (44.7 per cent).

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While he was far from his best in the series opener, bowling without consistency, he still struck twice with the new ball.

Questions of his place in the side are short-sighted and reactionary.