Friday, February 24, 2017

In a way, Australia"s approach towards India"s spin paid off

Australia’s Mitchell Starc plays a lofted shot as Indian players look on during Day One of the first Test in Pune yesterday. Pic/AFP

It is late afternoon on the third day of Australia’s tour match against India ‘A’ at the Brabourne Stadium. The match has served its purpose for captain Steve Smith and is heading for a draw. Smith had gained ample of batting practice on the first day by scoring a ton and spent the next day and a half marshalling his troops under the hot Mumbai sun.

He could easily afford to rest his feet, but instead decides to head out in the middle during the tea break to take additional throw downs without his pads. The whole purpose of the exercise is to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistake as in Sri Lanka and get hit on the pads to the straight ball.

Meticulous practise
It is a drill that most of the Australian batsmen have been practising meticulously before the Test series and each of them finally got a chance to put the practise into play yesterday on the opening day of the first Test here.

Right from the second over of the day, the Indian spinners tried to expose the flaw that was so visible in Sri Lanka. Thirteen of the 27 LBWs and bowleds that the Lanka spinners claimed against Australia were to the straighter delivery. There was no way Australia was making the same mistake again. Each batsman protected the inner edge of the bat by plonking their front foot down the line of leg-stump and being more open-chested. It took the LBW out of play and despite plenty of balls whizzing past outside edge of the bat, they continued to stick to the strategy.

On a pitch that spun more than any of the Sri Lankan ones, the Australians had overcome the first hurdle of playing spin bowling in Asia. Secondly, every single batsman backed their defence. It was a significant shift from the mindset of ‘we have to get as many as we can because eventually we are going to get a ball with our name on it.’

Decoding spin
Each batsman found a method, Warner was prepared to play on both sides of the pitch against the spinners, Renshaw used his height to great advantage, Smith stayed deep in his crease and played the ball once it had spun, Handscomb shelved his beloved cut. One by one, they worked to a plan.

Australia might have lost nine wickets but in the process they have taken small steps towards excelling against spin bowling.

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