Pat Cummins’ Australian team returned to the site of a humiliating innings defeat and flew in a back-up spinner in a bid to redeem themselves before the start of this week’s second Test against India in Delhi. Left-arm pacer Mathew Kuhneman joins left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc in the squad for what is likely to be another tough test with the spin at the Arun Jaitley Stadium starting on Friday. Having been bowled out for 91 in the first Test by an innings and a 132-run defeat, opener David Warner and team headed to a dusty Nagpur pitch on Monday for practice.
Australia’s weak batting is a major concern after the second innings collapsed in a single session to trail 1-0 in the four-match series.
“We are still very positive in ourselves that we will bounce back in Delhi and level the series again,” wicketkeeper Alex Carey said.
“I think we’re a very strong Test team. We’ve got all the bases covered. Unfortunately that didn’t go to plan in this first Test.”
Australia are expected to make changes with Kuhneman joining Todd Murphy, who took seven wickets on his Test debut in Nagpur, and veteran Nathan Lyon on Delhi’s spin-friendly wicket.
Kuhneman, 26, played in four ODIs last year and replaced Mitchell Swepson, who was due to return home for the birth of his first child.
Batsman Travis Head is expected to return after his surprise omission, while Cummins has left the door open for Starc and all-rounder Cameron Green, both recovering from finger injuries.
“The big key is to use the reverse swing when the ball is a bit harder, which is more difficult for the batsman,” Starc, who could replace Scott Boland, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Obviously spin is going to play a big part and being able to pick the ball off the straight seam is going to play a big part too.”
Rohit Sharma-led India will look to keep pace with batsman Cheteshwar Pujara’s 100th Test with an unlikely line-up.
The 35-year-old Pujara, an in-form player who averages over 44, said he will keep the big picture in mind during his landmark tournament.
“We are playing an important series against Australia,” Pujara told ESPNcricinfo.
“Yes, the second Test will be my 100th Test, but after that there will be two more Tests which will be very important for us to win to qualify for the (World Test Championship) final.”
Pujara scored seven in Nagpur, but Rohit’s 120 and powerful lower-order knocks from Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel saw India comfortably bowl out 400 for the tourists.
Spinners Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin top the list with 15 wickets each for Nagpur.
Middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer has been declared fit to return to the squad for the second Test after missing the opener with a back injury.
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The maiden Test victory has strengthened India’s chances of qualifying for the World Test Championship finals at the Oval in London from June 7-11, ranked second in the world behind Australia.