The Indian cricket team will head into their first day-night Test against Australia with optimism and interesting selection dilemmas, having managed to tick most of the boxes in the three-day pink-ball dress rehearsal against Australia A in Sydney on Sunday.

An outright win seemed possible for Ajinkya Rahane and Co but Australia A gave a better account of themselves on an eased-out third day track, despite being reduced to 25/3. The hosts finished on 305/4 riding on Ben McDermott and Jack Wildermuth’s centuries. Both the batsmen survived a barrage of bouncers under lights from Indian pacers.

The four-Test series gets underway from December 17 in Adelaide.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, keeping an eye on the proceedings at Sydney Cricket Ground, would have been happy with the options that emerged from the game.

Day 1

The biggest talking points came from the XI that the Indian team management opted to field in the only pink-ball warm-up match ahead of the Adelaide Test.

India’s playing XI: Ajinkya Rahane (C), Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Wriddiman Saha, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah  

  • Was KL Rahul rested or is he, as perhaps the case should be, not in the team’s plans right now? There seems to be a school of thought that Rahul is nailed on as a starter in the XI and he has only been given a break as Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were. But having not played the longest format in a while, it is hard to imagine how that could be the case.

With question mark over opener’s slot, Shubman Gill puts his hand up in Sydney

  • No specialist spinners in the XI. R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav both played at Drummoyne Oval but were missing from the action at SCG as India opted for a four-pronged pace attack. If Ravindra Jadeja is not fully fit, this could be an indication that India (like they did in Perth last time around) could be looking at an all-pace attack with Vihari as the spin option. Kuldeep Yadav hinted that might not be entirely the case, however. “I feel it’s difficult to read spinners at night, because if a spinner uses variations it’s not always easy to spot the seam position of the ball,” Kuldeep Yadav told
  • According to PTI, while Umesh and Ashwin were not played in the second warm-up game, it was more about checking the other pacers and letting Bumrah and Shami add miles to their legs. It would seem Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin look all set to start the Test match.
  • Both Saha and Pant were in the XI, indicating that the team management is still looking to pick one among the two. The broadcasters had said that Pant was the preferred choice in the first warm-up match and was pulled out from the squad at the last minute due to a niggle (reportedly neck strain). And the fact that he batted ahead of Saha in this match and kept wickets in the first innings seemed to reiterate that. But Saha was behind the stumps in the last two sessions of the match, giving more mixed signals. This might not be a clear-cut call by any means.
  • Having opted to bat first again, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill were seemingly in the mood to make a statement about their strokeplay again. But it was the latter, overall, who made a better impression.
  • India’s lengthy tail has been a cause of concern for a while now. Jasprit Bumrah’s superb half century was rightfully celebrated by a guard of honour in the short-term, but if he continues his improvement, it is massive for India who will miss Ishant Sharma’s lower-order batting too.

Bowlers star for visitors but star of the day – Bumrah, the batsman


Day 2

  • Shubman Gill’s composure and technique opening the innings wouldn’t have gone unnoticed compared to Shaw’s loose batting during his two knocks in the game. There is a lot of time at Gill’s disposal and the upright stance with an ability to get his body behind the line of the ball, like any top international batsman does, gives his team a lot of hope going into the series.
  • Similarly, Hanuma Vihari strongly kept himself in the hunt with a hundred that again reflected his patient approach. With his handy off-breaks – one such delivery got rid of Alex Carey – he can be a good option for the sixth specialist batsman’s spot in the side.
  • And then there was the Rishabh Pant show. Irrespective of the quality of the bowling, what Pant achieved in the final session of day two is a reminder of why he is so special. Pant, after his 73-ball hundred, should be the primary contender for donning the big gloves. The selection might come down to Pant’s ability to turn the game around in a session with his batting, while Saha is more suited to the backs-to-the-wall kind of batting as he showed in saving the first warm-up match.

Day 3

  • In the first hour itself, the probable first Test opening pair of Joe Burns (1) and Marcus Harris (5) was sent back by Mohammed Shami (2/58 in 13 overs). While out-of-form Burns shuffled across to a straight delivery and was caught plumb in front, Harris was set up nicely with a leg-slip and his flick landed into Prithvi Shaw’s hands stationed for that particular shot. The lack of runs from the two openers will certainly increase the Australian team’s worries but from an Indian point of view, the seamers’ ability to take early wickets augurs well for India.

After scathing criticism from Allan Border, hosts fight to earn a draw


(With PTI inputs)