After a thrilling ODI series, India will face Australia in a Historic Day-Night Test from Thursday at Gold-Cost. While India will play a test against Australia after 15 years, it will be the first time that India will play any Pink Ball Test Match. Australia has however played one in the 2017 Ashes, the match is remembered for Perry’s unbeaten 213, the highest test score in an innings by any Australian.

The rivalry started in 1977 when they faced off for a test in Perth. Though the one Australian side travelled Indian subcontinent in 1975, that was a U-25 side and the matches are not declared official. Both the side met 9 times. Despite 4 victories of Australia, India till now have failed to win any. In the last three encounters, Australia won comprehensively.

There was some talk about the inclusion of Shafali Verma in the longer formats of the game. In the Test against England, Shafali Verma announced her arrival in the longer formats with 96 and 63. England’s veteran Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole made life hard for her in the opening spell. They tested the right-handed opener outside the off-stump as well as on the stumps. Verma started her innings with a streaky boundary, edging one Shrubsole outswinger through the gully, and her last boundary was a steer through the third man when she stayed leg-side to a Kate Cross delivery and used her T20I wits to good effect. Between these two boundaries, Verma showed there’s more method to her madness and more madness to her method than just going berserk from the start.

So far in her international career, one weakness Verma has visibly shown is against the short stuff. She did build the innings but her methods were unique and her own. While her senior partner Smriti Mandhana opted to stay on the back foot for most of the time and drove or pulled with the England bowlers keeping the length short, Verma was getting on the front foot even on Brunt’s short-pitched deliveries. Verma defended the ball when she had to, Verma smashed the balls when she felt like. She launched Sophie Ecclestone over mid-on for a maximum, she thumped Kate Cross down the ground on her way to the nineties, all with a smile on her face. She faced the highest number of balls while the senior members failed.

Both Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur was before the firing squad in the previous test for their batting. Looking at the ODI series where Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh did well with the bat, it will be a tough call to decide the middle order for the test match. Will they go with the experience or go with the form? Taniya Bhatia who scored a match-saving unbeaten 44 against England will take the responsibility to keep from Richa.

Out of the 5 debutants, the effort of Deepti Sharma has been less talked about. She came out to bowl in the first innings, just before the lunch when England has already got a solid platform, despite losing Lauren Winfield-Hill. On a first-day pitch, this off-spinner still managed to troubled the batter with her spin. India fielded with one specialist spinner in form of Sneh Rana so Deepti Sharma had a more role to play with the ball where she lived up to the expectations of her skipper.

On the other hand, Australia will miss the batter in Rachael Haynes in the test match. Haynes the all-weather cricketer has been instrumental in three formats of the game for the Southern Stars for the last couple of years. In her absence, either backup batter Georgia Redmayne, who enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Queensland Fire in the WNCL last summer, will debut as part of the top six, or selectors could opt to add another all-rounder into the mix. The likes of right-arm trio Nicola Carey, Annabel Sutherland and Tahlia McGrath are all well placed to push for a spot in the starting XI. At the same time, her absence will push Beth Mooney in the opening.

In that second ODI Mooney made a match-winning 125no, while she also opened in the 2017 Ashes Test in Sydney, making 27. In the 2019 Ashes Test in the UK, she made 51 and 25 batting at six and five respectively.  While Healy, Mooney, Lanning makes the top three in the order, Perry has been all over the test in the last two matches they have played.

With unbeaten 213, 116 and 76* in the last three test innings, Ellyse Perry will once again gear up to shade away from her ODI nightmare where she failed to find her rhythm. Along with her, Tahlia McGarth who made her debut in a day-night test and has re-established herself after the ODI series will take care of the middle order. In her debut test, she picked up 3 wickets while scored a composed 47 at number 8.

Ashleigh Gardner, fresh from Sunday’s knock of 67 that was the highest score of her ODI career and featured 10 boundaries, won’t overcomplicate things as she quickly switches formats. She along with Sophie Molineux will have the role in the middle overs. Sophie Molineux has been in good touch in the absence of Jess Jonassen where she not only contained run but also picked up wickets. Besides in the last Ashes, in her debut match, she has picked up 4 for 95 in her 37 overs.

Looking ahead to the Test at Metricon Stadium, head coach Matthew Mott has said he expects the fast bowlers selected to be used in bursts, with the spinners to do some of the heavy liftings throughout Australia’s bowling innings. With her extra height and bounce, Campbell shapes as an attractive prospect in that regard, however, given she was rested today, fellow tearaway Darcie Brown might have the inside running for that role. While Campbell took one wicket in her debut ODI, she impressed the experts with her 3 wickets in the practice match.

Apart from her fast bowling Annabel Sutherland is useful with her bat too. In her short career, she showed a glimpse of that too. An excellent outfielder struck an impressive 35 from number three in her third ODI, and a quick-fire 22 from 11 balls which she hammered against England on her T20I debut. In the third ODI she Lanning brought her as the 7th bowler and she blew the contest wide open with a sizzling spell that accounted for the wickets of India middle-order trio Richa Ghosh, Mithali Raj and Pooja Vastrakar. It prompted Lanning to give her young charge more overs than had initially been planned, and the skipper was glowing in her endorsement of the performance post-match.

So, while Healy, Lanning, Mooney are at the top, all-rounders like Perry, T-Mac, Gardner and Molineux in middle, Australia is most likely to go with Darcie Brown and Campbell as the frontline seamer. With Aussies excited about the Metricon Stadium track sporting a healthy covering of grass, the contention remains for two spots. And they have to decide whether they want an extra batter in form of Redmayne or all-rounders like Carey or Sutherland or a spinner like Wareham.

Australia squad: 

Meg Lanning (c), Darcie Brown, Maitlan Brown, Stella Campbell, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham

India Test squad: 

Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Richa Ghosh, Ekta Bisht

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