One of the major differences between the two sides was the inability of the Australian batsmen to build a substantial innings. The final day of the Sydney Test will require at least one of them to stand up and perform, or else there are several historic nadirs that await them apart from a humiliating series scoreline….
The elements had their own mischievous game on the fourth day of the Sydney Test, and as a result, just 25.2 overs were possible. But even then the Australian saga of humiliation continued almost unabated. For the first time in 31 years were they made to follow on at home.
That is not really a very significant statistic. Follow on had not been enforced, but they had been over 200 runs behind after the first exchanges at Sydney in 2003-04 and at Melbourne during this series, on both occasions against India. That they have been asked to bat again perhaps has more to do with the weather and the fact that India are playing with two pace bowlers and two spinners, one very young and the other very fit, are doing the bulk of the bowling.
However, it is ignominy no doubt. And although the weather has made their chances of escaping with a draw in this Test easier, the task for the batsmen will not be entirely easy as they go out for their final battle. The series is well and truly lost.
Besides, the draw is not the only result the Australian batsmen need to bat for. There is considerably more to play for, with pride being the foremost on the list. Indeed, if we do take a look at some other statistical barrels the side has scraped during this series, this is the last opportunity for them to wind up on a relatively non-embarrassing note.
The Australian batting has not really looked brittle. The top 7 batsmen have passed 20 on 29 of the 49 non-trivial (excluding 2 not out and such knocks) innings in these Tests. Their Indian counterparts have done so on 30 occasions in the same number of innings (49). They have looked comfortable through most of it, even solid in parts.
However, after that, the conversion has not really been comparable. The Indians have gone on to make 7 half centuries, and 5 hundreds … two of the hundreds being 193 and 159 not out. The Australians have been restricted to 7 half centuries.
|The Top 7||India||Australia|
The highest they have managed is 79, the runs toted up by Marcus Harris in the first innings.
The inability to play long innings have hit them hard, and it has boiled down to the brink of this 1-3 result.
This also gives rise to some alarming statistics.
2018 marked the lowest number of centuries (4) scored by Australia in any calendar year in which they played more than 10 Tests. The previous lowest was 5 in 12 as far back as in 1902, a year that saw them go through one of the wettest English summer.
Besides, if someone among the batsmen does not stand up and get at least 84 tomorrow, the Harris innings will go down as the ‘lowest-highest score’ ever by an Australian team in a series of 4 or more Tests. The previous lowest highest score was 83 by Bill Lawry during the nightmarish whitewash meted out by South Africa in 1970.
In other words, in any series of four or more Tests played by Australia in their 142-year history, there have always been at least one score more than what we have seen them put up in this series.
In fact, to find even a 2-Test series in which Australia did not manage a score as high as 80, we have to go back all the way to the English summer of 1890, when Jack Barrett carried his bat in the Lord’s Test scoring an unbeaten 67.
These are alarming statistics. This means that building an innings has become a lost art in Australia. Even after spending a long time at the wicket, the Australian batsmen have been guilty of gifting their wickets away without getting a substantially big score to put pressure on the opposition.
They have been guilty of doing this through the series. The win at Perth was managed because four of the fifties were managed in that Test, a game in which the Australian batsmen showed more application than otherwise in this series, and because apart from Virat Kohli, and to an extent Ajinkya Rahane, no one could reciprocate from the Indian side.
It can be said with a lot of confidence that the Australian batting has hit a nadir of a sort that has seldom been witnessed. The absence of Steven Smith and David Warner have hit them hard, harder than the most pessimistic Australian fan would have anticipated.
Yes, the Australian batsmen will walk out tomorrow to bat time and ensure that they do not lose the series 1-3. But, along with that, they will also have their task cut out to correct some rather garish historical downtrends.
Perhaps one of the top order batsmen will see to that with a hundred, if only to ensure that they end the series on a positive note.