India lose Ashwin, Sharma to injuries for 2nd Australia test
PERTH, Australia (AP) It's predictable to forecast bowling attacks featuring four fast bowlers for a cricket test in Perth, where the pitch has traditionally offered extra pace and bounce.
Usually, though, the discussion revolves around an Australian battery of quicks and rarely would that prospect extend to India's attack.
But with offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin ruled out of the second test because of a side strain, India selectors are considering it. Australia, meanwhile, confirmed its starting XI on Thursday and stayed with its three frontline pace bowlers and offspinner Nathan Lyon.
Nobody really knows 100 percent what the wicket will do at the new stadium in Perth, which is being used for the first time in a test match and is within sight of the famed old WACA ground. Curator Brett Sipthorpe has been trying to prepare a wicket to imitate the conditions at the WACA.
India won the series-opening test in Australia for the first time earlier in the week, holding on for a 31-run victory late on day five in Adelaide. A win in the second of four tests would ensure Virat Kohli's lineup retains the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and put India in an ideal position to clinch its first-ever test series in Australia.
But the win in Adelaide came at a cost for the visiting squad, with Ashwin injuring his left abdomen as he bowled 52 overs in the last innings and batsman Rohit Sharma jarring his back while fielding. Teenage top-order batsman Prithvi Shaw remains unavailable because of an ankle injury he sustained before the series.
Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been included in a 13-man squad, along with first-test pacemen Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah - heightening speculation about the four-pronged pace attack - and spinning allrounder Hanuma Vihari is a potential replacement for Rohit Sharma.
India isn't expected to finalize a starting XI until just before the toss on Friday, but the prospect of a green, fast wicket doesn't concern skipper Kohli.
"We certainly get more excited than nervous looking at lively pitches now," Kohli said. "We understand that we do have a bowling attack which can bowl the opposition out as much as they are convinced about their attack."
Australia's pacemen had India in early trouble in the Adelaide test match, having the visiting batsmen struggling at 19-3 in the 11th over and 41-4 in the 21st before Cheteshwar Pujara produced a match-turning century to help his team reach 250. The Australian top-order failed in reply, surrendering a 15-run first-innings deficit.
Pujara again was again the backbone of India's second innings, scoring 70 before the Australian bowlers rallied to take the last four wickets for four runs and restrict the visitors to 307. It proved to be too much for the Australian batsmen again.
The Australian batting lineup, already missing suspended Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, will come under more intense scrutiny with any more failures in Perth. But the bowling attack has also come under pressure following criticism of pace spearhead Mitchell Starc's performance in Adelaide.
The big left-arm bowler took five wickets in the match but his effectiveness and line with the new ball came under question. Australia selectors stuck with the same lineup from Adelaide and the pacemen's duties will be shared among Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Captain Tim Paine said replacing Starc was never an option.
"Starcy has been good for us. The criticism he's come under this week has been unfair," Paine said. "His best and his worst are getting closer together and I think we're getting closer to his best again."
Australia: Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
India squad (from): Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
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Updated December 13, 2018