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5 Things the first test taught us


India_Australia_CricketAfter the horrible events in the lead up to this Test series both Australia and India would have been glad to start playing some cricket. Australia won the Test on a dramatic fifth day, but at the tea break on that last day things could have been very different. Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay were well on the way to giving India a famous victory before Nathan Lyon had his say. The 12 wickets from the Australian off-spinner turned out to be the telling contribution, but it wasn’t the only highlight during the game.

David Warner is fantastic

As 2014 has progressed so too has David Warner’s reputation. He has been unstoppable in all formats, but it is in the Test arena that he has been the most impressive. For the second time this year Warner scored a century in each innings. The last time he did it was against Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. This time it was Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami. While the bowling may not have been as impressive, the batting was just as sparkling. Warner is now the first name on the Australian team sheet. They have not had such a dominant opening batsman since Hayden and Langer called it a day. That shows how far Warner has come.

Steve Smith isn’t far behind

As much as it was David Warner’s twin centuries that caught the headlines, it is important not to overlook the contribution of Steve Smith. Everything that Smith tries seems to work. He is as unorthodox as any Test batsman in the world, but there is no doubting the results that he is producing. He scored 212 undefeated runs in this Test and once never looked like being dismissed. The days when he was a cherubic legspinner making his debut at Lord’s seem a long time ago. While many opposition fans treated Smith as a figure of fun, there are few that laugh at him now. He is now more Steve Waugh than Steve Carell.

Michael Clarke could be done

Michael Clarke pushed himself to be fit for this Test, and he led his side impeccably. He was bowled a bouncer by Ishant Sharma when he was on 60 not out. It was an innocuous delivery that Clarke hardly had to move to avoid. However it was immediately clear that he was in real trouble. A back spasm meant he had to leave the field. He returned on day two and managed to complete his century. It was not an innings that had much that was atheistically pleasing about it. Clarke couldn’t move his feet or bend his back so he resulted to carving the ball over the covers in shots that were what you expect from backyard French cricket.

While it was an impressive display of grit it could also have hastened the end of his career. He struggled to take the field in the India second innings and he has been ruled out of the rest of the series. However, it is not just his involvement in these Tests that are in doubt. In the post match press conference Clarke admitted that he may never play again. His spirit is willing to continue, his body is not.

India can bat abroad, but can they bowl

There were some excellent batting performances in this Test, not least from Virat Kohli who matched Warner’s feat of a hundred in both innings. Che Pujara scored an excellent 73 in the first innings, Murali Vijay a superb 99 in the second. They competed with Australia with the bat, the issues were with the ball. While it will be heartening for their supporters to see the top order getting Test runs overseas, it was a generous declaration as a result of rain on day two that made this result seem closer than it was. India only managed to take 12 Australian wickets in this match, as many as Nathan Lyon managed on his own. But for the rain curtailing the match India would have been faced with a much stiffer run chase that would have been completely out of reach. They made a decent fist of chasing those runs down, but if they want to come back in this series they need wickets. The absence of Bhuvi Kumar due to injury could well be the reason why that won’t happen.

Virat Kohli is a leader

Apart from the runs, we saw Virat Kohli the captain in this Test. He is far from a tactical genius, but he did a fine job leading this side. He was attacking in approach, although it did overspill into some petulance on day four that saw him lose some of his match fee. While there have been allegations of Indian sides under Dhoni not really caring, not to say that these are justified, a Kohli led India is far more proactive. Perhaps the biggest difference was the approach to the chase on the last day. India went for the win whereas in the past they have not under Dhoni. MSD will return when fit, but India have a replacement as captain for when he takes up his role as Vice-President of India Cements full time.

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