Michael Clarke will move up the order at Mohali. Source: AAP/foxsports.com.au
If the 2nd Test loss to India by an innings and 135 runs last week wasn’t bad enough for Australia , things have only got worse after four players were axed from the tourists squad for the 3rd Test starting at Mohali on Thursday. Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson have all been ruled out of the match after breaching team protocol in failing to complete an assessment following the Hyderabad embarrassment, leaving Australia with just 13 players available for selection. To make things worse for Mickey Arthur, incumbent wicketkeeper Matthew Wade could yet be ruled out after rolling his ankle at training, with Brad Haddin flown to the subcontinent as cover.
Phil Hughes has probably earnt a reprieve after scoring just 25 runs in four innings this series, while a lack of batting options means that Steve Smith will probably play his first Test match in more than two years. Having scored almost twice as many runs as any other player in the opening two Tests – and been top batsman in the first innings of both matches – skipper Michael Clarke is set to move up the order and will bat at three of four.
As the only specialist pacemen left in the squad Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc will lead the attack, but it will be interesting to see if Nathan Lyon earns a recall or the selectors choose to rely on Xavier Doherty as the sole specialist spinner.
India has some big selection news of its own, with veteran opener Virender Sehwag axed from the squad after scoring just 27 runs in his past four Test innings. Uncapped left hander Shikhar Dhawan is the only other specialist opener in the squad and should partner Murali Vijay at the top of the order. Cheteshwar Pujara is the player that will be of most concern to Australia however, having scored the fourth ton on his 11 Test career with his 204 in the 2nd Test. Despite scoring 81 in the 1st Test, Sachin Tendulkar continues to struggle and hasn’t scored a Test century for more than two years, although he scored 98 against Australia at this ground in October 2010.
While Australia cannot win the series, victory at the Punjab C.A. Stadium would keep their hopes of avoiding series defeat alive, although the stats suggest that it will be a big ask. India has won three of the past four Test matches at the ground, including both of the games against Australia in 2010 and 2008. The West Indies is the only visiting side to win a Test at the ground, but that was in 1994 and five of the nine at the ground since have ended in a draw .
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