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Six talking points from Australia vs India fourth Test

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7th January, 2019
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A frustrating finish to the fourth Test between Australia and India in Sydney has seen no play on Day 5 and ultimately, a draw, as the tourists claimed their first ever series victory down under.

From the bad light to Australia’s continuing problems with the bat, there is plenty to come out of the match as the teams turn their attention to a three-match ODI series.

Bad light? You have to trust the umpire’s judgement
As frustrating as it is to sit around while there is no rain and not play cricket while big floodlights do their thing, there are times where it’s simply not safe to play cricket.

What you see on TV, what you see at the ground, or what you think, at the end of the day may not be the smartest options.

At the end of the day, a red ball being hurled at 140 km/h in dark conditions is not safe. The floodlights can only do so much for the red ball to be picked up by a batsman, and as we have seen all too clearly with the case of Phil Hughes four years ago, it’s hard enough to pick up quickly in good light conditions.

How would you feel, as an umpire, if you were to allow play to go ahead and then someone got hit because they couldn’t see the ball?

Sport is a big business these days, but money and the want of fans or match situation should never come into play for an umpire deciding on the weather, light and ground conditions.

Umpires will always err on the side of caution, but there is good reason for that.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

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This has to be the end of the road for Shaun Marsh
Another failure for Shaun Marsh, and this time on what can only be described as a road in Sydney.

The career of Marsh has been a frustrating one to follow. There is no doubting the potential, and so many times he has done just enough to keep being selected, but this has to be it. This time, he hasn’t even done just enough for the selectors to have a reason to continue picking him, after being skittled for eight in the first innings.

Now at 35 years of age, he was supposed to be the senior member of the squad, but has scored just 183 runs across the series, including only the single half-century.

It’s been a train wreck of a summer for Marsh, and those numbers would barely be good enough for a rookie, let alone a batsman who has been given chance after chance over the years.

A career average of 35 suggests he simply doesn’t have what it takes to perform at the top of the game, and the Sri Lankan series must be used to find a replacement.

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Selectors can tell us no one is banging down the door – and even if that was the case, it’s still time to find someone new to bat for Australia.

When you have someone like Matthew Wade, who is scoring a truckload in the Sheffield Shield, can bowl and would provide a handy back-up with the gloves, it’d be a crime to continue picking Marsh for Sri Lanka and then onto the Ashes.

Cheteshwar Pujara may be the best batsmen we have in Test cricket right now
He isn’t flashy and he doesn’t have the shot-making of captain Virat Kohli, but the way Pujara has handled himself throughout the series against Australia has been outstanding.

It’s a remarkable turnaround, given his form struggles against England earlier this year, and while there are certain conditions he still has to prove himself in, this tour of Australia will have taught him plenty.

His Test average has climbed to almost 50 on the back of a 193 in this Test, while he has faced more deliveries than any other Indian batsman across a series in Australia and spent more time at the crease than anyone else in recent memory.

By the end of the series, he has 521 runs from seven innings, with three hundreds, a fifty and an average of 74.42.

It’s not the strike rate or fast starts which his tour is going to be remembered for, but rather the determination to bat time and stay at the crease, ensuring India never fell into a situation where they were vulnerable to a collapse and low score, as Australia found themselves doing multiple times.

He might not bring the crowds back, but Pujara sure does bring hell for bowling attacks.

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India's Cheteshwar Pujara

(AP Photo/James Elsby)

Usman Khawaja is good, but he’s not great
Khawaja is a very good Test batsman. He’s proven it time and time again in conditions which are favourable to him, and finally threw the monkey off the back in terms of not being able to play spin when he went to the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

His match-saving knock in the first Test against Pakistan was outstanding as he scored a big century and ensured Australia wouldn’t lose the game.

Without Steve Smith and David Warner, Khawaja was tasked with leading the batting line-up this summer at number three, and despite some promising signs, like everyone else, he simply didn’t have what it took to hold off the Indian attack.

From getting bogged down in Adelaide and Perth, to being pushed to open in Sydney, it simply hasn’t worked. His dismissal in Australia’s first innings of the fourth Test was soft as anything, and it means he finishes the series with just 198 runs at 28.

That’s not good enough, and a difficult period lies ahead for Khawaja as Smith and likely Warner make their way back into the team.

Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin could be India’s new dynamic spin duo
Kuldeep Yadav was seemingly picked on the tour of Australia with one objective – to play in the Sydney Test on a pitch which was likely to take more turn than any of the others this series.

While the injury to Ravichandran Ashwin wasn’t part of the script for the tourists, Yadav now has 19 wickets in five Tests at an average of 25, to go with his 112 wickets in first-class cricket.

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It’s not a knock on Ravindra Jadeja, who is India’s normal second-choice spinner and bowls quite well at home, but he doesn’t quite have the variations, consistency or penetration to succeed away from home.

It’s time for Yadav to become India’s second-choice spinner behind Ashwin, who of course is never going to be replaced as the lead spin bowler in India’s set-up.

But even at home, Yadav will provide more than Jadeja with his variations and accuracy. There is a reason he is playing for India across the limited-overs formats as well, but the next step for the 24-year-old is to become a regular Test bowler.

Marcus Harris is a solid Test batsman, but needs runs against Sri Lanka
The comparisons which can be drawn between Marcus Harris in his debut summer and Cameron Bancroft during the Ashes 12 months ago are various.

Both looked very solid, like they belong at the top of the order at Test level, but neither made the big breakthrough century and scored heavy runs for Australia on a consistent basis.

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Just being able to play out the new ball before not going on with it simply isn’t enough at this level, and it’s left the rest of the batting order exposed far too often.

The long-touted issue at Sheffield Shield level for Harris has been his ability to concentrate for long periods and hang around. He has all the talent to get to 20 or 30, but then all too regularly finds a way to throw it away.

He will undoubtedly be at the top of the order against Sri Lanka for the upcoming two-Test series, but he needs runs there to confirm his spot on the Ashes team.

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