In the calm before the Ashes storm, or in between off-field storms, there have been two very good Test matches taking place. New Zealand held on for a draw while it looks like Pakistan will get the win against Bangladesh.
What’s been interesting is the huge involvement left-arm finger spinners have had in both matches. In Pakistan’s first innings of 286, Taijul Islam bowled nearly 45 overs and took 7 for 116.
In the Black Caps’ first innings in the other Test, Axar Patel bowled 34 overs and returned figures of 5 for 62, while Ravindra Jadeja took another four wickets in the second New Zealand innings and they combined for a total of 11 victims for the match.
This latest effort from Patel is only a follow-on from his outstanding series against England, where he claimed 27 wickets in three Tests at a ridiculous 10.59.
Given the Australian team will be touring Asian countries next year, it stands to reason we should be looking for guys who can take wickets in their conditions and Ashton Agar has to be our first-choice left-arm spinner.
He’s clearly improved his bowling, certainly in the shorter formats, but now needs to focus on bowling well in Shield games. He needs to work on his accuracy, his stamina to bowl long spells and his ability to bowl both sides of the wicket.
The strength of the spinners mentioned above is their patience and ability to put the ball where they want and allow the pitch to help them get wickets.
From what I’ve seen in recent series, the pitches on the sub-continent and in Sri Lanka have offered slow turn and little or no bounce. Wrist spinners want bounce and want the ball to turn sharply, so these conditions would hardly help Mitchell Swepson or Adam Zampa.
On the other hand, both Lyon and Agar are not big spinners of the ball but should be suited these pitches.
I’d suggest if Agar doesn’t play these Tests next year, Australia has no chance of winning. We must have a quality left-arm finger spinner in the starting XI.
Selection for Asian 2022 will place added pressure on Cameron Green to show what he can do with the ball in the upcoming Ashes series.
Australia will need to choose two finger spinners and that will leave only two fast bowling spots, with Pat Cummins a lock for one and the other most likely going to Josh Hazlewood, with Jhye Richardson a handy rotation.
Cummins will want to have another pace option and Green will need to step up. Obviously there are other spin options in Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, but having that first change quick will add depth to the attack.
It might also be a good reason to pick Travis Head, both for the Ashes and for Asia.
Granted, he’s a right-arm finger spinner, but he’s still a handy bowler who comes at batsmen from a different trajectory than Nathan Lyon. On the sorts of pitches and match conditions Australia are likely to encounter, the more bowling options the team has, the greater the chance of knocking opposition teams over.
Speaking of knocking teams over, India’s best failed to do that in the first Test and given the advantages they had, they’ll be furious they’re not one up in this series.
The Black Caps, on the other hand, will be delighted at how well they scrapped for the full five days. Indian conditions least suit their attack, yet they rolled India once (Tim Southee was terrific) and delayed India long enough in the second dig, to give themselves a decent chance of salvaging the game, which they duly did.
The World Test Championship winners will take a lot of positives from this match. They would have also learned a lot about how India’s attack functions in home conditions.
I think if I were Kane Williamson, I‘d be quietly confident of doing well in Mumbai. He knows he needs to win the toss but if he does that, he has the batsmen capable of blunting the Indian spinners, especially now they’ve had a taste of what to expect.
This Test also totally confused me. Wriddhiman Saha was the nominated wicketkeeper for India, managed to bat twice, including a knock of 65 not out, off 126 deliveries in the second innings, but was replaced behind the stumps by KS Bharat – apparently because Saha had neck stiffness.
Presumably, he didn’t have neck stiffness on days 1 and 4, only on days 2, 3 and 5. I’m sure this is within the laws of the game, but I question whether it’s within the spirit?
Saha did not have to keep wicket for 142 overs in New Zealand’s first innings, so would have been well-rested before batting a second time. His innings took the game away from the Black Caps, who I’m sure won’t have been overly impressed.
The LBW decision against Will Young in the second innings makes me think there needs to be a change to Test-playing conditions.
Here’s a guy who’s been fielding all day, then late in the afternoon, when batting is the toughest and he’s no doubt tired, he has to come out and not only try and survive, but has to be able to guess correctly whether the umpire has made the right or wrong decision.
First of all, why is it his job to know if he’s out or not? He’s hardly in a position to know whether a delivery has barely pitched outside leg stump, whether he’s been struck outside off-stump playing a shot, etc.
Second, why does his stay at the crease depend entirely on him getting a guess right? That match completely changed when Young guessed wrong.
I’d like to see all LBW decisions that are given out by the umpire reviewed before the batsman leaves the ground. The fielding team can still review not out decisions and the batting side can still review other decisions, for example, catches to the keeper.
Finally, yet again Test cricket has shown up the white-ball formats. Here are two matches in the past few days that have lasted the distance and have provided lots of tough and tense cricket.
Granted, neither game was played at a frenetic pace, but there’s still been plenty of enjoyable cricket because there’s been a true contest between bat and ball.
We’ve also had something only Test match cricket can produce – a fantastic last eight or nine overs while one team hangs on grimly for a draw. Hopefully we see a few similar tight finishes in the Ashes.