India vs Australia: First Test Preview

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Can Australia put an end to India's 20-match home unbeaten run when the sides meet in Pune this week?

Australia get their tour of India underway in earnest when the two sides meet on Thursday at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune.

Can Australia end India’s 20-match home unbeaten streak or will it be business as usual for Virat Kohli and his charges? Let’s take a look:

India vs Australia | 23 Feb - 27 Feb | Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune 

To Win Match
India 6/10 | Draw 5/2 | Australia 15/4

The Indians will be supremely confident coming into this match following convincing wins over both England (4-0) and Bangladesh (1-0) in recent months. They shouldn’t have too much trouble against the Australians whose spin trio of Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe and Glenn Maxwell were all carted by Sheryas Iyer in the warm-up match against India A.

Key to the Indians’ success will be the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who both sit atop the ICC Test Bowling Rankings at the moment. Of course, it helps always helps playing in familiar conditions – India have only played one series outside of the Sub-Continent since early 2015.

The duo have been absolutely devastating in the last two years, running through some of the planet’s strongest batting line-ups with their endless bags of variations and tricks. I have absolutely no doubt that - barring any injuries - the duo will have it all their own way in Pune this week.

Don’t expect the Indian top order to allow the Aussie spinners to settle. Virat Kohli will attack them at any given opportunity while Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane need no second invitation to put the bad balls away.

Expect the top order to use their feet to unsettle David Lyon and Steve O’Keefe while the seamers toil away in the humid conditions. It doesn’t look promising for the Australians, however, they’re a cricketing nation known for their tenacity and never-say-die attitude, hopefully they can make a contest of the first Test. If they get rolled by an innings in Pune, they’ll battle to competitive in the remaining matches.

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The key to Australia doing well in this series lies at the feet of their batsmen and how well they deal with the threat of Ashwin and Jadeja. It’s no use trying to limit India to low scores on the Sub-Continent because their batsmen will always make score no matter who’s bowling.

That responsibility will lie with David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh. There were promising signs in the warm-up match from the latter two who both grabbed themselves centuries. Warner and Renshaw, however, will need to step up after less than convincing performances.

Renshaw will probably be under more scrutiny than anyone. The big left-hander is seen as someone who can combat India’s two spinners by using his considerable reach to sweep them away. While the sweep provides an outlet to score, Renshaw will have to be careful against the wily Indian spinners who have dealt with far more established batsmen in the Test arena.

Looking through the Australian top order, Smith seems the best equipped to deal with the spin barrage facing his side. He uses his feet well and will no doubt look to get to the pitch of the ball. He’s made a total of 548 runs in his last four Test and List A matches and will no doubt look to build on that here.

Verdict: India 6/10
India are almost unstoppable at home in the longest format of the game and should have little trouble dealing with an Australian side whose spinners were unable to keep a lid on India A’s batsmen. You won’t get India at 6/10 again during this series – climb on now!

Value Bet: Over 28.5 runs at fall of first wicket
Both teams and their openers should be able to see off the new ball fairly easily. The seamers shouldn’t really pose too much of a threat and batting should be relatively easy until the ball gets a bit scuffed and the spinners come on. Decent value here at 17/20 – get on!

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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