India had to fight hard to post a historic Test series win over Australia in 2018-19 for the first time in the Indian cricket history. Although Australia missed the services of Steve Smith and David Warner due to ball-tampering bans, nothing can be taken away from the success of the Indian cricket team Down Under.
Although India were the better team in the four-match Test series, Australia did have their moments, winning the Perth Test to level the series 1-1. Besides, the banter between Rishabh Pant and Australian skipper Tim Paine made the series an interesting watch.
Cricwizz makes the best playing XI of the 2018-19 Test series between Australia and India.
It’s strange that two openers who were fairly new to international cricket shone better than their experienced partners. Marcus Harris and Mayank Agarwal were the bright spots for the respective teams and embarrassed their experienced partners in Aaron Finch and KL Rahul during the series.
Marcus Harris was the leading run-getter for Australia in the series with 258 runs @ 36.86 in 8 innings. His 79 was the lowest highest score by an Australian in a four-match Test series. Harris’ contribution at the top was a saving grace for Australia in an otherwise poor batting display by the rest of the line-up during the series.
Harris handled the new ball well and grounded out Indian pacers who were bowling thunderbolts one after another. Harris, however, had a visible weakness against the short ball, getting hit on the helmet on more than a few occasions during the series. He looks an exciting prospect for Team Australia.
Someone who had just a few days to acclimatise to Australian conditions after being rushed in as cover for Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal showed great skills to score two fifties in 3 innings as an opener. He was easily the find of the series. He showed great application dealing with the new ball and thwarted the rampaging Australian pacers from making early inroads into the Indian batting line-up. It was his brilliant batting in the two innings in Melbourne Test as an opener that gave India the cushion to dominate the match and take a 2-1 lead.
This can be easily called the series of Pujara who not only amassed the most runs (521 runs), but also cracked a record three tons in the series, and played the most balls to blunt the Australian bowling attack throughout the series.
Take out Pujara’s contribution and you will see India would have struggled to force a 2-1 win. Most of the times Pujara came out to bat in the first few overs and basically played the role of an opener for his team to see through the new ball, make the bowlers lose their venom and score runs when the opposition is tiring out.
And Pujara took it literally to the heart, playing 1258 balls during the series, the most by any visiting player in a four-match Test series in Australia.
Captain and No 4
Kohli cracked a brilliant 123 at Perth on a difficult pitch. He was the lone man standing for India. However, he undermined his ton to some extent by his celebration post the milestone. Nevertheless, it was a knock to remember as Kohli cut down all risks to play an uncharacteristic knock of a grinder. He played 257 balls for his 123 and cracked 13 fours and one six.
What was also notable of Kohli during the series was his captaincy as he was bang on with his bowling changes, field placements, and team selection. He looked to avoid mistakes of his previous tour of England and South Africa last year.
Except in the Perth Test, where he went for an all-pace attack, Kohli got his playing XI right in all the three Tests. Kohli also showed great passion on the field to lift the morale of the team whenever there was a partnership building. He celebrated each wicket like his own.
Head edged past another favourite for the No 5 spot – Ajinkya Rahane – to occupy a slot in this playing XI. Rahane made a couple of crucial fifties, but he never looked in control as he chose an attacking game to score runs. Rahane had the luxury of batting with established batsmen such as – Pujara and Kohli – on the other end.
But Travis Head fought a lone battle most of the times. He scored two fifties in difficult conditions at Adelaide and Perth when the Indian bowling attack was on top. His 58 at Perth paved the way for a match-winning total of 326 in the first innings. Head was one of the few shining graces for Australia during the Test series.
For Jadeja, the pitch does not matter as he can take a wicket in all conditions and against all opponents. And he proved himself yet again when he replaced R Ashwin in the Melbourne Test. During the series, he took 7 wickets and scored a crucial fifty in Sydney to put up a record 204-run stand for the seventh wicket with Pant. His energetic fielding was an added boost to lift India’s performance during the series. He sword celebration post his fifty in the Sydney Test is not to be missed.
Pant made the series exciting with his banter with the Australian skipper Tim Paine. He was not just all mouth behind the stumps though. He took a record 20 catches behind the stumps during the series. He cracked an entertaining 159* in the Sydney Test to prove he can bat in all conditions and score runs. He, thus, became the first Indian keeper-batsman to score a ton in England and Australia. Pant easily surpassed his counterpart Tim Paine during the series with his keeping and batting skills.
He was the standout bowler for Australia, becoming the joint highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps along with Jasprit Bumrah during the series. He was unplayable during the Perth Test in the second innings and bowled Australia to a win to level the series.
However, India came up with a better plan to counter Lyon’s off-spin in the subsequent Tests. Lyon made Indian batsmen looked silly sometimes when they threw away their wickets trying to hoist his bowling over the ropes.
But India made Lyon toil in Melbourne and Sydney as he bagged just 5 wickets in these two Tests compared to 16 in the first two Tests at Adelaide and Perth.
Bumrah was easily the best bowler of the series, becoming the joint highest wicket-taker along with Lyon with 21 scalps. He bagged a record 6/33 and a match haul of 9 wickets in the Melbourne Test to help India take a 2-1 series lead.
His slow full toss to bowl Shaun Marsh in the Melbourne Test was easily the ball of the series. Bumrah was brilliant with the new ball and the old ball as well. His impeccable line and length made it difficult for the opposition to score runs off him. He was indeed the bowler of the series.
Cummins showed great heart for a fight throughout the series. He was the fourth highest wicket-taker in the series with 14 wickets. His performance in the Melbourne Test was heartwarming as he fought a lone battle to help Australia take the match to the fifth day.
He bagged 9 wickets and scored a fighting 63 in the fourth innings of Melbourne Test. He improved his credentials as an all-rounder during the series and made a strong claim to bat higher up the order. Cummins put to shame his experienced partner in Mitchell Starc with his bowling display.
Shami formed the perfect troika of bowlers with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah during the series. He was the perfect supporting bowler for Bumrah and Ishant, who underachieved during the series though. Shami took 16 wickets in the series and emerged the third highest wicket-taker.
His 6/56 in the second innings at Perth was fast bowling at its best. However, it’s sad that it ended on a losing cause. Nevertheless, Shami showed great spirit to keep bowling his heart out every time Kohli threw the ball at him.
Playing XI: Marcus Harris, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Travis Head, Rishabh Pant (Wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Nathan Lyon, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Pat Cummins.