Australia lost their final Test before the Ashes but have rediscovered their fire

Nick Hoult
The Telegraph
Steve Smith was able to call upon two genuine spinners against India - AP
Steve Smith was able to call upon two genuine spinners against India - AP

The next time Australia play Test cricket will be at the Gabba in November when England will face opponents who have rediscovered their swagger and confidence.

Even though ultimately Australia lost the final Test against India in Dharamsala on Tuesday, and thus the series 2-1, they did compete and put themselves in strong positions in every match in a way that was beyond England before Christmas. 

Australia managed to rile Virat Kohli, who was jolted out of the comfort zone he inhabited against England and was rattled to such an extent he said he no longer considered the Australian players to be his friends

“No, it has changed," he said. "I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle you want to be competitive but I've been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, that has certainly changed and you won't hear me say that ever again.” 

Kohli only managed 46 runs in three Tests missing the final match with a shoulder injury and time off the field gave him a chance to brood over criticism that replaced the praise from the England series. "I've heard a very wise person tell me that when a person is down, the weak come out and speak about him. It takes courage to speak about someone when they are on top. It's fine, I was targeted individually and I hadn't done well in the series. So opportunities galore for everyone to come out and speak about me.”

<span>Australia unsettled Virat Kohli during the series</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Australia unsettled Virat Kohli during the series Credit: Reuters

Australia had poked fun at Kohli’s shoulder injury, which kept him out of the final Test, while he accused Steve Smith of consulting with the dressing room over DRS decisions. India made an official complaint to the ICC over the issue before later withdrawing it as pettiness threatened to overshadow a thrilling series. 

The performance of Australia’s two spin bowlers, Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, allowed them to compete in a way that Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid could not manage for England

The Australian batsman also left their egos in the dressing room and showed an ability to bat for time when conditions dictated rather than go the ultra aggressive route which has cost them in the sub-continent in recent years. It works on true pitches at home but is fatal in India against world class spinners and Australia learned the lesson of their 3-0 defeat in Sri Lanka last July and adapted to the pitches far better. Smith’s three centuries showed Joe Root what is expected of captains in big series and while young opener Matt Renshaw may not have scored a hundred, he did bat for longer in the series than any other team-mate apart from his captain.

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Lyon was not “at his best” during the Australia summer according to Smith and almost lost his place but his captain nominated him as the man of the series in India. Along with O’Keefe he shared 38 wickets in the four Tests and both spinners also kept a lid on the runs, conceding at around two and a half an over, an economy rate that gave the captain time to breathe. 

"He has got two five-wicket hauls, both in the first innings of the game. He was able to change things up. When guys were sweeping him, he was willing to throw the fast one in to stop them and make them defend,” said Smith. 

With Pat Cummins playing his first Test match since 2011 and generating good pace in both the matches he played, Smith knows he has an attack with the power to be very dangerous in home conditions. Add in James Pattinson, who hopes to build fitness playing county cricket this summer for Notts, on top of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood, and Australia have plenty of options with the new ball. It all feels a long way from when the series against South Africa was lost in Hobart before Christmas and Australia were in crisis. 

“This team has grown so quickly. We are still a very young side,” said Smith. “It wasn't too long ago we were at Hobart and it was the end of the world. So I am proud of the way we have been able to turn things around and really compete in these conditions. Coming over here, we were written off. Some said we were going to lose 4-0. But we competed.”


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