India and Australia will begin the first of a two-test match series at Mohali on October 1.
India are currently the top ranked test team; Australia relinquished the number one rank, in December 2009, after a decade at the top. But even at the pinnacle of their success, Australia did not do well in India. Steve Waugh called it the last frontier, and he never managed to cross the frontier.
It was left to Gilchrist to lead Australia to a test series win in India in 2004-05 after Waugh had retired from the game. The last India-Australia series here was won 2-0 by the hosts, in what turned out to be the last test series for Ganguly and Kumble.
The wicket at the Punjab Cricket Association ground in Mohali, the venue of the first match of the current series, is traditionally helpful to batting. India have a 3-1 record in tests played at this venue.
The last time Australia played here was in 2008, a match that India won by 320 runs. Indian skipper Dhoni has never been on the losing side in a test series, as skipper. And he will be keen to maintain that record against Ponting’s men.
For India, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Gambhir are likely to return after recovering from injuries. But there’s a cloud over Harbhajan’s participation. While Dhoni would be anxious to get his best bowlers playing, there are no batting worries for the hosts.
With Gambhir returning, India will have its formidable opening partnership back on song, with Sehwag likely to continue from where he left off in Sri Lanka. Gambhir will need to work his way back to form after a disappointing showing in the Board President’s XI match against the Aussies.
It’s hard to tell whether Vijay could find favour ahead of Gambhir. Vijay himself was in fine fettle in the recently concluded Champions League T20 tournament in South Africa, where Chennai Super Kings won, and Vijay was the man of the match in the final.
The middle order looks solidly in place with Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. Raina could use the opportunity to make the number six his own. He replaced Yuvraj Singh in Sri Lanka and got a century oin debut. Dhoni as ever will walk in at number seven.
There will be additional pressure on Ponting’s men ahead of the Ashes to give a good account of themselves. Their batting looks reasonably good, with Katich and Watson at the top, followed by Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, and possibly North, followed by keepr Paine.
With Hauritz returning, Ponting has his best bowlers to choose from. Hilfenhaus, Johnason and Bollinger are the other regulars who could do battle in Mohali.
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