Ind vs Aus 3rd Test: Australia will be coming into the SCG Test against India with a lot to prove. The Men Down Under have not hit single hundred since 2017. The last batsman to do so was Steve Smith who 111 runs in Dharamshala in March 2017.
Since then, six Test have been played between the two sides, and 13 different batsmen or all-rounders have tried to break the unimpressive record. The closest to finally end the hundred drought was Marcus Harris in Sydney in January 2019 when he scored 79. Also, only Harris (36.85) and Labuschagne (33.40) have an average of over 30 runs.
In the same time frame, Indian batsmen have six hundreds to their credit. Cheteshwar Pujara is the frontrunner with three tons. Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant, meanwhile, have one each.
And how has Steve Smith faired in past three years?
Ind vs Aus 3rd Test: Steve Smith’s record
Smith too has failed to find his “hands” against India. The ICC Test Player of the Decade appears to have called under the spell. Smith has made just 10 runs in four innings this summer.
However, he would like to end the drought in Sydney.
Sydney is Smith’s one of the favourite grounds. He has scored six centuries at SCG out of which two came during the three-match ODI series in November.
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He has two Test hundreds – vs England and vs India – too which will be a big confidence booster for him. His highest ODI score of 164 came against New Zealand also was scored at SCG.
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Meanwhile, this summer has been the toughest for the batsmen of both the teams. Barring India’s skipper for ongoing tour Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja, and Australia’s Tim Paine, no player has been able to score runs on Australian pitches.
Ind vs Aus: Runs hit 133-year low in Test summer
Not since Test cricket’s early days of Fred Spofforth and George Lohmann some 130 years ago have batsmen found the going so tough in Australia.
For so long a haven for batsmen on flat and hard pitches, for once it is a battle dominated by ball as Australia and India share the series after the first two Vodafone Tests this summer.
The average run per wicket this summer is just 21.50 – the lowest in any Australian summer since way back in 1887-88.
It’s a far cry from the mark of 34.01 when David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne dominated Pakistan and New Zealand last summer, or even the 30.03 from when India toured two years ago.
Run-rates are down too, with the scoring rate of 2.63 the slowest of any summer this century.
All this in a time where limits on shining balls and banning the use of saliva due to COVID-19 was meant to make things harder for the bowlers.
Yet somehow, all three of Australia’s quicks are averaging under 20.
“If you look at both teams both teams have really struggled to get this scoreboard rattling along,” Australia’s assistant coach Andrew McDonald said.
“So for me that’s good planning, good bowling execution, but also the surfaces have lent themselves to slower play.
“They left some grass on it which allowed some movement and some swing.
“There hasn’t been what we normally now assume to be flat, Australian conditions in the first two Test matches.
“I hope the surface in Sydney lends itself to having the ball at certain stages being able to dominate the bat. That makes for intriguing Test match cricket.”
Planning does account for much of that after the teams faced off in Australia just two years ago.
India have targeted Steve Smith’s leg stump and shown he is human with just 10 runs across four innings.
The same tactic has largely been employed to Labuschagne, who passed 50 in seven of eight innings last summer, but is yet to post a half-century in four this season.
India’s batting meanwhile showed a great deal of resilience in Melbourne to bounce back from their 36 all out in Adelaide, but Ajinkya Rahane’s 112 is still the only hundred of the series for both teams.
The tourists’ wall from two summers ago Cheteshwar Pujara is finding it just as challenging, with Pat Cummins having removed him three times.
Pujara has scored just 63 runs across four innings, while his 243 balls faced is less than he soaked up in his first innings alone on the last tour.
But in that instance, Cummins said it was more about placing a value on patience after doing it tough in 2018-19 rather than extravagant scheming.
“It’s just trying to bowl good balls and make him make a decision to play or leave it and do it for as long as we can,” Cummins said.
“Fortunately it has come off so far pretty early in his innings, so long may it continue.”
Lowest scoring Test summers in Australia
1887-88: 9.35 runs per wicket
Ind vs Aus 3rd Test Playing XI:
India’s playing XI (Possible): Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur/T Natarajan, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah
Australia’s Playing XI (Possible): David Warner, Will Pucovski, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Mathew Wade/ Travis Head, Tim Paine, Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood