Sport Cricket Brad Hogg: The Aussie gamble that could backfire in India
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Brad Hogg: The Aussie gamble that could backfire in India

stevesmithsetsfieldinindia
Steve Smith sets the field as Pat Cummins prepares to bowl. Photo: AAP
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Australia’s effort to save the third Test in Ranchi was fantastic. It has set the series up.

India now need to win in Dharamsala to claim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and they don’t have the momentum.

After the efforts of Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh on the last day, the momentum now seems to be in Australia’s favour, but perhaps I am splitting hairs here as it was a Test that India should have won.

But I am a little concerned. I still think we haven’t mastered how to manage our quicks.

Pat Cummins, playing his first Test in six years, bowled 39 overs in Ranchi and Josh Hazlewood fought through 44. They are big numbers.

We only used five bowlers despite bowling 210 overs – and Glenn Maxwell bowled just four. Steve Smith didn’t seem to want to bowl him.

I also thought the captain could have used his own leg-spin bowling to get a breakthrough.

There were footmarks outside leg stump and a three- or four-over spell by him could have been a game-breaker.

He did bat a long time though and perhaps he was saving energy for the second innings. 

Australia
The Aussies will go to Dharamsala in a confident mood. Photo: AP

Still, it means India captain Virat Kohli will desperately want to win the toss in Dharamsala and will want to bat to put pressure on the Australian bowling attack and make us bowl for a long time.

And that might be a telling factor in the fourth Test.

If we have to spend one-and-a-half to two days in the field, it will be testing for our players, particularly our fast bowling unit.

If they bat first, India can set the the tone of the match by scoring quick runs and giving themselves enough time to bowl Australia out twice.

I must admit, I didn’t think we could survive when Smith was bowled just before lunch on day five. The writing seemed on the wall.

I thought Ravinder Jadeja would be just too much of a handful on that fifth day, particularly with a few left-handers still to bat.

Marsh’s efforts in Ranchi deserve special praise. The knives have been out for him for a long time.

I believe he is the perfect batsman to have in your team on the sub-continent. He showed how well he could play spin in Sri Lanka.

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Shaun Marsh showed great maturity in his innings. Photo: AAP

Only two Aussies made a ton in that disastrous series we lost 3-0; one was Smith and the other was Marsh, who only played one Test.

That knock will really boost Marsh’s confidence – he helped save the day for Australia.

His other partner in crime Handscomb is, in my humble opinion, the best player of spin in the line-up behind the skipper.

I’m extremely happy with the way Handscomb is facing spin.

It is very hard to bowl to Pete – he always wants to sweep me when we have played against each other.

He hasn’t played that shot much in India, but believe me it is in his armoury.

I am a bit worried about his technique facing reverse swing, but that is the only part of his game that he has got to work on.

Kohli again struggled for runs in Ranchi, but what some people are forgetting is that he motivated his team to win the second Test.

Without him they would be out of the series already. He is a huge presence for India and his players are clearly behind him.

He has made a double-hundred in his last four Test series and he is due for runs.

At Dharamsala – another new Test venue – recent stats suggest it is the medium-pacers and quicks who tend to do better there.

This may be a big advantage for Australia, but until we see the pitch it is impossible to judge.

The selectors may look at bringing Jackson Bird in and potentially leaving out one of the two front-line spinners, even though Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe have bowled extremely well on this tour.

They probably have been the pick of the Aussie spinners ever to tour the sub-continent in a Test series.

Time will tell. Either way, it’s gripping, nail-biting stuff, and this is how we love our Test cricket!

Spinner Brad Hogg has represented Australia on 145 occasions, featuring for the nation’s Test, one-day and Twenty20 teams. He played in the Big Bash League for the Melbourne Renegades last summer.

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