Tied Australia-India test series hinges on Gabba result

By JOHN PYE 15 January 2021, 12:00AM

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia hasn't lost a cricket test match at the Gabba since 1988. India has never won a test match at the Brisbane venue.

Some say it's a fortress for Australian cricket. Others have dubbed it the Gabbatoir, a colloquial reference to the home team carving up.

With the Border-Gavaskar series tied 1-1, all hinges on the last match starting Friday. An injury-plagued India squad is determined to make some history.

Just who India will pick in the starting XI will have to wait until match morning, with most concern over pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.

Both teams have struggled with injuries and spending months either in quarantine or under travel and accommodation restrictions.

India's squad has been battered, bruised and, in the third test in Sydney, verbally abused. The third test was temporarily halted last Sunday and six men were ejected from the Sydney Cricket Ground after India paceman Mohammed Siraj complained to umpires about comments from the crowd.

The episode certainly didn't hurt India's resolve. Rishahb Pant missed the entire day of play on Sunday with an elbow injury but returned Monday to scored a crucial 97, complementing the stoic Cheteshwar Pujara in a partnership that gave India some hope of winning before both batsmen were dismissed and left it to Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari to grind through the last half of the day and force the draw.

India's stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane described the result as more like a victory than a draw. Australia captain Tim Paine had to publicly apologize for his on-field comments directed at Ashwin late on day five. He also dropped three catches and had the likes of India great Sunil Gavaskar — whose name is on the series trophy and was working as a TV analyst during the tests _questioning Paine's captaincy.

Paine fronted up for an online conference on the eve of the match to address questions about those things and more, admitted that he lost his cool in the heat of the moment and wasn't likely to do that again in the humidity of Brisbane.

He did confirm Will Pucovski, who posted a half century in his debut test innings last week, had been ruled out of the series decider because of a shoulder injury he sustained while fielding in Sydney.

Marcus Harris has been drafted into the starting XI and will open the batting with David Warner in the only change to Australia's lineup.

“He tried to train this morning, didn’t quite come up,” Australia captain Tim Paine said of Pucovski. “Marcus Harris will come in, open the batting and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

In the bowling attack, offspinner Nathan Lyon is set to play his 100th test and work in conjunction with pacemen Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc and allrounder Cameron Green.

India batting coach Vikram Rathour appeared for an online news conference and said he couldn’t confirm a starting team, adding that Bumrah was still being assessed by team medical staff and a decision on his fitness wouldn’t be made until closer to the toss.

Press Trust of India, citing Board of Control for Cricket in India sources, reported earlier in the week that Bumrah would be unavailable for the fourth test after sustaining an abdominal injury.

India's bowling attack is already missing experienced campaigners Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Spin-bowling allrounder Ravindra Jadeja has already been ruled out after needing surgery on his thumb following the third test.

Ashwin had back soreness and Vihari had a hamstring strain throughout their unbeaten partnership on Monday and have been recovering.

India was comprehensively beaten in the first test in Adelaide last month before skipper Virat Kohli retuned to India to be with his wife, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, for the birth of the couple’s first child. Kohli announced late Monday that their baby girl had been born.

India won the second test in Melbourne by eight wickets under stand-in captain Rahane and got the psychological better of the draw in Sydney.

In Brisbane, curator David Sandurski said he'd prepared a typical Gabba wicket to produce bounce and carry, and “there should be enough grass on there to keep the bowlers interested for most of the game."

Paine said the Gabba was a “hard place to come and play cricket,” even for players from other Australian states such as Victoria and Tasmania, and was looking forward to getting underway.

“It’s something that has been to the advantage of Australian teams for a long time," he said.


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

By JOHN PYE 15 January 2021, 12:00AM

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