And so it all comes down to this. The ultimate decider for a series that has had drama, excitement, extraordinary swings in fortune, a dose of controversy and even uncertainty over where the next match would be played. India only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but the Gabba is usually a result-orientated ground. It’s winner takes all, a rare situation for the final Test of an Australian summer.
The home side will be pleased that the scheduling challenges of the season have meant that Brisbane is the final stop. They have not been beaten here since 1988 although it remains to be seen whether the surface for a January Test differs at all from one in November. It is also the first game of first-class cricket at the ground this season.
Ajinkya Rahane termed India’s magnificent escape at the SCG as good as a win, but their resources continue to be stretched to breaking point. However, from the moment they were bowled out for 36 in Adelaide they have been galvanised, never better epitomised by the stand between Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin which means the series is at this point.
This match will be the biggest challenge in terms of fitness and recovery, especially for the fast bowlers. Adelaide was a short game, after Melbourne there was a week’s gap, but this time it’s been three days. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are all good to go again, but they will surely hope that Australia can bat first.
Australia, and especially captain Tim Paine, have shown signs of the tension that has crept into the series and this is a significant match for a side that for a year had looked on a steady upward curve. India, meanwhile, will have to overcome more injuries and the history of the venue. If they succeed it will be one of the greatest victories.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
Matthew Wade helped Australia plug a gap for the first two Tests when he moved up to open but did not have a good match at the SCG back at No. 5. His first-innings shot, picking out mid-on shortly before the second new-ball, was not a great bit of batting although he got a decent delivery in the second. He has not been shunted around again despite Will Pucovski’s injury, and Justin Langer likes the attributes he brings to the team, but this has the feel of an important match for Wade in terms of where he stands when Australia next pick a Test side – whenever that might be.
Shubman Gill has looked a Test match batsman in the two matches he’s played this series. His four scores between 31 and 50 have oozed class and it promises to be a long and successful career. Does he have a defining innings in him for this match? While he is just starting out and it would be harsh to criticise, his three dismissals have been frustrating purely because he has looked so much at home in the arena. The Gabba can be challenging for overseas players, but once set it can also be a wonderful place to bat.
Australia have confirmed one change with Marcus Harris recalled in place of Pucovski who has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. It will be Harris’ first Test since the 2019 Ashes.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Marcus Harris, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Matthew Wade, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
India will need to find at least two replacements with Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja ruled out and may yet need more with doubts over Jasprit Bumrah. Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan could come into the mix, with Kuldeep Yadav as a second spinner if R Ashwin recovers as the lead spinner. India could also play both Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha or bring back Mayank Agarwal in place of Vihari and continue with Pant as the designated wicketkeeper.
India (possible) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Rishabh Pant, 6 Mayank Agarwal/Wriddhiman Saha, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Jasprit Bumrah/Shardul Thakur/T Natarajan, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Pitch and conditions
The Gabba is known for its pace and carry although there are a few uncertainties due to the lack of cricket this season and the later start to the game (there have only been two January Tests at the ground). The forecast for the opening day is good but there’s a chance of storms on Saturday then showers over the rest of the game.
Stats and trivia
- Lyon, playing his 100th Test, needs four wickets to reach 400
- India have played six Tests at the Gabba, losing five and drawing one – in 2003
- This is the first deciding Test of a series in Australia (with the scoreline level) since the Perth match against South Africa in 2012 when the teams were locked at 0-0
“We set high expectations for ourselves and last week we didn’t meet them and when you don’t do that you leave yourself to criticism and we’ve copped that on the chin. We’re now looking forward to this Test match…so we can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Australia captain Tim Paine
“I think we are [prepared for Briasbane bounce]. On this tour we have got a lot of time to prepare. We came early, we had a lot of practice sessions here. You expect more bounce and pace; having played well and having played well for so many days now, yes the belief is there that the boys will be able to handle it and handle it pretty well I am sure.”
India batting coach Vikram Rathour
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
England complete 3-0 sweep as New Zealand tumble for 96
Brunt strikes twice in first over as England defend 128 with ease
England women 128 for 9 (Wilson 31*, Dunkley 26, Devine 3-30) beat New Zealand women 96 (Satterthwaite 25, Villers 3-10, Brunt 2-19)
England fast bowler Katherine Brunt led the way in a commanding bowling performance in Wellington, as her team comprehensively beat New Zealand by 32 runs to complete a 3-0 series sweep.
Six different England players got among the wickets, as New Zealand, chasing 129 for a consolation victory, failed to get any sort of momentum going, eventually being dismissed for 96 in 18 overs.
The hosts were pegged back very early in the chase, as Brunt trapped the openers Sophie Devine and Hayley Jensen lbw for ducks in the first over. Amy Satterthwaite at No.3 provided a brief resistance, top-scoring with 25, but once she was dismissed by Sarah Glen in the eighth over, New Zealand withered away, losing at least one wicket each over till the 13th. Legspinner Mady Villiers struck three times in the space of 10 deliveries to reduce the hosts to 60 for 8, before Sophie Ecclestone and Natalie Sciver mopped up the tail to seal the win.
England had earlier recovered from a slow start to post 128 for 9, thanks largely to Fran Wilson‘s unbeaten 23-ball 31, while Sophie Dunkley chipped in with 26. For New Zealand, Devine was the pick of the bowlers, ending with figures of 4-0-30-3.
New Zealand vs Australia, 5th T20I, 2020-21
Big-name players will return but some key areas will continue to provoke debate when Australia resume playing
Australia fought back from 2-0 down to square the series against New Zealand before suffering a heavy loss in the decider. The squad was missing at least four players who will be inked into the T20 World Cup squad, in theory given an opportunity to assess the wider options available. With the team now facing a lengthy break, what can be gleaned from the five matches?
Wade the frontrunner, but where does the keeper bat?
However this series had played out there would have been questions remaining afterwards because of the names missing, especially so at the top of the order. David Warner will return and open with Aaron Finch – that’s probably the easy bit – but at the moment it appears Australia want their gloveman in the top order as well and that’s going to be a squeeze with Steven Smith also to fit in. Matthew Wade had the gloves throughout the series and in the last match slotted in at No. 3 having previously opened and produced his best knock of the five games. Josh Philippe played two very good innings in his debut series – and may well be the man for the 2022 T20 World Cup – but for now Wade looks to have the running. With the bat he may yet be used in a floating capacity both because of his experience and the fact that he’s a left hander.
This has been a perennial debate around Australia’s T20 side. Given Ashton Turner wasn’t tried in the series before returning home early for the birth of his child it would appear to be between Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh (it’s tricky to see how both play when all the batsmen are available). Stoinis played one standout innings – the 78 off 37 balls that almost stole the game in Dunedin – and it could be his spot to lose although, like so many in this line-up, his best work domestically comes at the top of the order and at times he can still soak up too many dots. Marsh’s best innings came when batting at No. 4 in the first match, albeit in a forlorn cause, and in three of matches found himself down at No. 7 below Ashton Agar in an attempt to split up the left and right handers. He also didn’t bowl in the series following another season of injury. Daniel Sams showed what he is capable of with 41 off 15 balls in Dunedin, but the feeling is he has to compete as one of the five bowlers. Agar, whose role with the ball is vital, has yet to convince he can quite hold the batting position needed of him.
It can’t all be on Maxwell
Related to the above is the fact that it still feels as though too much of how the middle order performs (in whatever order they bat) rests on the brilliance of Glenn Maxwell. It came off spectacularly in the third game when he had the ideal mix of a platform to work with and time left in the innings as he hammered 70 off 31 balls. Either side of that he made 23 runs in four innings and Australia need to have the ability to soak up those sorts of days more easily.
Pace-bowling pecking order
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will be locked into the side which probably leaves room for one more frontline quick in the XI. It could well be a horses-for-courses approach depending on conditions and opposition. The possibility of larger World Cup squad due to Covid-19 protocols also means the tough calls may not need to be made at the outset. Riley Meredith‘s first appearances for Australia certainly caught the eye, twice beating Kane Williamson for pace to win lbw appeals, and his development at the IPL (if he plays) will be watched with interest. Kane Richardson remains a hugely versatile performer and perhaps the most dependable behind the big two. Jhye Richardson, on his international comeback, showed glimpses of the late swing that make him so dangerous. Does Josh Hazlewood come into the mix as well?
Did Australia try enough?
During the series both Finch and coach Andrew McDonald spoke of the valuable “information gathering” that had gone on even if, from the outside, it did not look like much was changing pointing to things like altering batting orders and Adam Zampa bowling more Powerplay overs. There was only one personnel change in the five games: Meredith replacing Sams after the first two matches. In truth, the series finishes with largely the same questions as it started. Five of the squad who were there the end – D’Arcy Short, Ben McDermott, Andrew Tye, Jason Behrendorff and Tanveer Sangha – did not get a game although so many extra players wouldn’t have been on tour under normal circumstances.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Match Preview – West Indies vs Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka tour of West Indies 2020/21, 3rd T20I
Sri Lanka have broken their barren streak. They’d lost eight T20 internationals in a row – against, Australia, India and West Indies. Finally they seemed like a competent T20 team, and this was largely thanks to their spinners.
It may seem like this is obviously the way Sri Lanka were going to win, but it isn’t, really. Sri Lanka haven’t had a good limited-overs spin attack for years. While on Friday, Akila Dananjaya bowled nicely through the powerplay, Wanindu Hasaranga dominated the middle overs, and Lakshan Sandakan polished up the tail, it hasn’t been since Rangana Herath and Sachithra Senanayake bowled in tandem, midway through the last decade, that Sri Lanka have had potent slow bowlers. On Friday’s evidence, these three have potential. While Hasaranga is clearly the primary matchwinner among them, Dananjaya and Sandakan also have significant strengths – particularly the ability to bowl difficult overs.
West Indies won’t fret on the loss much, partly because there is so much quality in their lineup that it’s impossible to rule out a comeback in even the most dire situations. Who’s going to rule out Evin Lewis blasting his way to a match-winning score? Or Nicholas Pooran going off like a skyrocket? There’s Chris Gayle, Llendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard to contend with as well, in addition to the lower-order talents of Dwayne Bravo and Fabian Allen.
This is not a team you can predict a lot about, apart from to say most are matchwinners, and will ruin oppositions at will. Sri Lanka were at very near their best on Friday. They’ll need to be at that level again on Sunday to take the series.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: : WLLLL
West Indies: LWWLL
In the spotlight
Have many bowlers had the kind of series Akila Dananjaya has had so far? He’s coming back from a long international hiatus because of his action, for a start. Then in the first match, he took a hat-trick and then ended up being pummeled for six sixes in an over by Kieron Pollard, to wind up with figures of 3 for 62 from his four overs. Kudos to the team management who not only played him again in the second match, but also tasked him with bowling powerplay overs, as the team banked on spin. In that game, he dismissed Lewis and finished with 1 or 13 from his four overs. Clearly, West Indies are planning to go after him. On Friday’s evidence, Dananjaya will come prepared.
If West Indies are impervious to analysis as a team, no player lives that out like Chris Gayle. So far in this series, he’s collected scores of 0 and 16, and yet, there is the sense that he could explode, and explode spectacularly. If he has a slow start, so what? But then he’s playing his first serious T20 international cricket in two years, this series, and it’s been at least three years since he last made a substantial contribution to West Indies in this format. Perhaps it is unthinkable that West Indies go to the T20 World Cup later this year without Chris Gayle, but in moving him to No. 3, West Indies have already put him on notice a little bit. After scores of 0 and 16 so far in the series, Gayle needs runs.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at Coolidge seems unlikely to change much – it’s been slowish for the first two matches, with moderate bounce. The weather forecast suggests another warm but dry evening is in store.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to change their winning, spin-heavy XI.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Pathum Nissanka. 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 5 Ashen Bandara, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 9 Ashen Bandara, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
West Indies aren’t likely to make many changes either. Only, Pollard keeps moving himself up and down the order.
West Indies (possible) 1 Llendl Simmons, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 5 Kieron Pollard (capt.), 6 Jason Holder, 7 Dwayne Bravo , 8 Fabian Allen, 9 Kevin Sinclair, 10 Obed McCoy, 11 Fidel Edwards
Stats and trivia
- Only twice in 13 bowling innings has Wanindu Hasaranga failed to take a wicket. And in both those innings – in Australia – he had not bowled his full quota of overs.
- Gayle has not crossed 50 in T20 internationals in five years – since March 2016. That innings, however, was 100 not out off 48 balls, against England in the most-recent T20 World Cup.
- Sri Lanka have not won a T20I series since October 2019, when they won 3-0 in Pakistan.
- West Indies won their last T20I series against Sri Lanka, around this time last year.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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