The Australian cricket team is on a roll at the moment in Test cricket. Within four days, Australia ran over a dismal New Zealand team at the MCG. The second Test between the two sides saw Australia win by 247 runs and seal another Test series. This was the second successive Test series win by Australia at home in the ongoing ICC World Test Championship.
After an emphatic 2-0 win against Pakistan, a rampant Aussie side thwarted New Zealand in the first two Tests to take a 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series. Australia will want to tick the New Year proceedings with a complimentary Test win and notch another clean sweep.
The ICC Test Championship 2019-21 will see the top two teams enter the final to be played in England. This was Australia’s third Test series under the Test Championship. They had earlier drawn the Ashes 2019 by a 2-2 margin to retain the urn. They collected 56 points from the Ashes series in England. The 2-0 series win against Pakistan, gave Australia 120 points.
And if that wasn’t enough, they are on course for another full 120 points against New Zealand. By the end of the tjird Teat, Australia will collect 296 points in total. Only one team lies ahead of them at the moment.
Team India top the Test Championship table with 360 points under its belt. India won three consecutive Test series against the likes of West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh respectively. Their next assignment is against New Zealand – a two-match series in February 2020.
2020 is a crucial year for all the sides in order to stake a claim for the Test Championship final qualification. However, none of the sides look as sorted and consistent as India and Australia. Each team is set to play six series in total.
The Virat Kohli-led Team India has done well of late and is expected to get the job done. Post the New Zealand series, India’s major assignment is against Australia. The 2020-21 Border Gavaskar Trophy will determine a lot of who gains momentum. The four-match Test series Down Under will be a grand spectacle. India had earlier beaten Australia in 2018-19 in a historic first. However, this time things could be different. Post that, India also host England for a five-match series at home.
Here we analyse why Australia will challenge India in the Test Championship.
Australia will look to continue momentum in 2020
The Aussies dominated Test cricket in 2019. They drew the last Test against India at the SCG in January and beat Sri Lanka 2-0. After the 2019 World Cup, Australia were on a different level and performed well under Paine. Australia’s all-round side is a dream affair. The bowlers had a fruitful year with Pat Cummins leading the way with 59 scalps. Nathan Lyon (45) and Mitchell Starc (43) followed suit. Josh Hazlewood completes this four-man attack and as a quartet, these guys compliment each other.
When the bowling is so solid, half the work is done for a side. Much like India, their bowling in 2018 and 2019 took them places. Communication is key and both sides enjoy that confidence in their attack. That was seen on the field.
Australia are set to continue with the momentum in 2020 and their bowlers could play the maximum role. The manner in which they thumped Pakistan and NZ, the confidence could talk high here.
Against India, these quartet will test the side and the series is pretty pivotal in many senses. Australia also could play a possible D/N Test against India and with a 100% record, they can cause trouble. India too are solid with their attack and can match the Aussies. So one can get is solid contest between bat and ball. With both teams dominating Tests in 2019, things could further spice up in 2020.
Besides the series against India at home, Australia tour Bangladesh for a two-match series and travel to South Africa with a hostile environment awaiting them. So it’s tricky, but expect the side to get valuable points.
Australia no longer over dependent on Smith and Warner
This is now a big bonus for the side. The Aussies aren’t too dependent on stars Steve Smith and David Warner. What we saw in 2019, was the rise of Marnus Labuschagne. He ended up as the highest run-scorer in 2019 (1,105) and was the only batsman with 1,000-plus runs. Labuschagne brings solidity in the ranks and is someone who can bat for long periods and be consistent in that number three slot. He takes pressure off Smith and Warner. What he brings is a straight head with no major complications in his game.
That’s a strength for Australia. And then you have players like Travis Head and Matthew Wade who are pretty crucial in the ranks in that middle order. 2019 saw these two dish out some strong performances. Head scored a brilliant 114 in the second Test against New Zealand. Wade can counter attack and has that grit in him to deliver when required.
And then obviously, Smith and Warner remain the major focus. Smith was the second-highest run-scorer in 2019 and had a defiant Ashes 2019. He has been as pivotal as Virat Kohli is for India. Smith will always be the fulcrum and in the 2014-15 series against India at home, he was unstoppable.
So facing him again will be a challenge Indian bowlers will relish. He presents a headache India haven’t faced a while in the longest format. Warner is the solid personality upfront. When he gets going, it’s difficult to stop him. The 154 and 335* against Pakistan were a testament to the same.
All-round Australia look confident and complete
This Australian side looks confident and there is that swagger about them. The domination against Pakistan saw them win both the Tests by an innings margin. Against New Zealand, the Aussies won by 296 and 247 runs. These are big numbers. The Ashes 2019 could also have been won if not for Ben Stokes’ magic in Headingley and some umpire and DRS blunders.
The Aussies have come together after the period of uncertainty post the ball-tampering scandal. They are doing well across formats and overall things look complete. However, they still have work to do. At the moment, they have identified a side and going with these bunch of players for a substantial run could benefit them.
Team India also looks sorted with its Test team and that has helped Kohli get an understanding. Australia will be eyeing a similar path and that’s why this side can challenge India in the World Test Championship.