Peter Handscomb and Todd Murphy are closing in on a place in Australia’s Test XI against India

Pat Cummins says he will not reveal Australia’s first Test XI until Thursday’s toss, but Todd Murphy is firm to make his Test debut, while Peter Handscomb’s chances of a Test recall increase as Australia are wary of the problems that remain too many- Handballers may face a bespoke Nagpur pitch.

Ground staff at VCA Stadium were seen carefully tending to the pitch two days before kick-off, including selective watering of the surface. They watered the middle of the pitch and the areas outside the right-handers’ off-stump at one end, but left those a good length outside the left-handers’ off-stump at both ends dry. There was also brushing and selective cutting of certain areas.

Speaking from the team hotel on Wednesday morning, Cummins, Australia’s captain, was not drawn into talk of pitch preparation but noted it would be a factor in Australia’s selection for the match.

“I think that’s a factor here,” he said. “With so much movement from the right-handers bowling, sometimes there’s a bit more for the left-handers. The Indian line-up will be full of right-handers, so I think it plays a small factor.”

Cummins has ruled out all-rounder Cameron Green from the series opener against India. Matt Renshaw had taken his place in Australia’s last Test match, but keeping him in it would mean five left-handers in the first seven would have to deal with the dry area of ​​the pitch that is likely to be chewed up. as both teams only have speedy right wingers in their attack. While Cummins did not specifically say he had put Handscomb ahead of the order, the chances of his recall appear to be increasing.

Australia are set to field a four-man bowling attack with Cummins and Scott Boland playing as the two quicks in the absence of injured duo Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. Nathan Lyon will be their main spinner. That leaves left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and offspinner Todd Murphy fighting for the last spot in the line-up.

“I think he would be as prepared as he could be,” Cummins said of the hatless Murphy. “He’s bowled beautifully in the nets here. He’s started really well for Victoria in first-class cricket. If he’s got the nod, he’s got Nathan Lyon at the other end to work with. He’s ready. Everyone in the team Here he’s had a really good preparation . Whoever we pick is 100% ready to go.”

The fear of playing two specialist offspinners – and leaving Agar out – against India’s dominant right-arm batting line-up may have allayed in the Australian camp after viewing the pitch on Tuesday.

“It’s a factor. These conditions, they really rotate, so just good bowling is what you’re looking for, be consistent over and over again,” Cummins said. “I don’t think you need to look for anything more; circumstances will come to you.

“You’ve seen Nath be really, really effective here [with] lots of sticks, legs for the right-handed. So ideally you have variety in any attack, but I don’t think it should be just for that.”

Cummins has had an incredible record of winning tosses as Australia’s Test captain, with seven of his last eight and nine of 13 overall so far coming in his favour. He hopes to continue this run of success in Nagpur but feels the toss may not be as much of a factor if the pitch is crazy.

“I think we’re going to bat,” Cummins laughed. “I think when conditions turn from day one, it really doesn’t. I think you’ve seen India’s record. They win just as many games playing second as they do first. I think it can be overrated when conditions turn really quickly.”

Alex Malcolm is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

Leave a Comment