With India playing exceptionally well in Sydney to keep the series alive at 1-1, the fourth and the final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy could be another thriller. Much has been said about the game in Brisbane, but the Gabba is set to host the two nations as per the initial schedule.
The Indian cricket team, unlike their counterparts, have been struggling with injuries of late, with the recent entrant being their No.6 batsman, Hanuma Vihari. The right-handed batsman picked up a hamstring injury during the long chase in Sydney, and it will be interesting to see how the Ajinkya Rahane-led team will approach the final fixture.
With the series now stuck in a do-or-die situation, I, for one, will be keeping a keen eye on the following players, who could make a potential difference.
Indian opener Shubman Gill has repaid the faith entrusted in him in absolute style, tallying 161 runs in his first two Test matches. Pairing alongside Rohit Sharma, the 21-year-old scripted history in the third Test. After a 70-run opening stand in the first innings, the pair forged a 71-run opening partnership in the second as well, to give India a strong start in Sydney. With this, the pair became only the second-ever Indian openers, since 1967-68, to score 50-plus runs for the first wicket in both innings against Australia.
Needless to say, Gill has defied his age by showing sheer composure and the way he has taken on the Australian bowling charge has been simply commendable.
Marnus Labuschagne plays to enjoy and there have been only a handful of instances where he has crumbled under pressure. Right from emulating Steve Smith to accumulating important runs for his team, I’ve rightly enjoyed what he brings to this Australian team.
He was at his usual best in the third Test as well, and I expect more of the same in Gabba where both the teams will go for the money. With the Australian openers struggling with consistency, the onus will once again be on Labuschagne to provide stability in the middle-order, and I think he’s the perfect man for the job.
Judging by his own standards, Cheteshwar Pujara has had rather quiet outings thus far, but we just cannot take away his contribution in the third Test. With the team kneeling for a draw, Pujara played 205 balls in the second innings, which was just more than 34 overs.
In the entire third Test in Sydney, the top-order batsman played a whopping 381 balls (63.3 overs), which was arguably an important contribution in forcing a draw. Now, he may very well have been troubled by the likes of Pat Cummins throughout the series, but I reckon he will find a way in the final Test.
Josh Hazlewood hasn’t had plenty of success with the ball after his match-winning spell of 5/8 in the first Test but he sure knows how to skim through India’s top-order - after having dismissed both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill across two innings in the third Test.
Hazlewood is not only a brilliant bowler but his quick feet and quick reaction also make him a brilliant fielder. And I don’t need to remind all about his spectacular effort on Day 3 to dismiss Hanuma Vihari. With the teams locking horns for the final time, I think Hazlewood would walk with an intent of replicating his form from the first Test.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ Saeed Khan