SECOND TEST: AUSTRALIA VS WEST INDIES – GABBA (JAN 25-29)
After a brisk first test in Adelaide, Australia and West Indies will conclude the Frank Worrel Trophy under lights at the Gabba, beginning on Thursday. The Aussies prevailed in the opening match last week, running out winners by ten wickets thanks mostly to a dominant performance with the ball as Josh Hazlewood (match figures of 9/79) helped to dismantle the visitors for 188 and 120, while an otherwise unconvincing effort with the bat was propped up by a sparkling 119 off just 134 balls from man of the match Travis Head. For the Windies, the stunning debut of paceman Shamar Joseph was undoubtedly the highlight with the 24-year-old first spanking 36 from number 11 before claiming the prized scalp of Steve Smith with his first ball in test cricket on his way to figures of 5/94, however he was let down by his batsmen who simply had no answer to the World Test Champion’s attack on a challenging wicket.
Once again the Australians are a very short price to complete a much-expected 2-0 series sweep, while the prospect of heavy rain towards the back end of the test, if we get there, sees the draw in single figures with an improbable West Indian victory at huge odds. Given that there is yet to be a drawn day-night test and with the first test barely lasting two days, we can’t really be going near the draw, although Queensland has already been on the receiving end of some wild weather this summer and the early forecasts are suggesting some significant falls which complicates matters further.
In an incredibly inexperienced line-up West Indian ‘keeper-batsman Joshua Da Silva is one of the visitors’ more seasoned campaigners with 25 tests under his belt and a couple of notable performances including 92 in just his third test away against Bangladesh and an unbeaten ton in a memorable test victory against England. The Windies’ top three boast the strongest records but batting against the new pink ball is historically a tough assignment, whilst Da Silva arguably has more pedigree with the bat than some of his middle-order compatriots and thus shapes as excellent value to top-score for the underdogs.
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Da Silva arguably has more pedigree with the bat than some of his middle-order compatriots and thus shapes as excellent value to top-score for the underdogs.
FIRST TEST: AUSTRALIA VS WEDT INDIES – ADELAIDE OVAL (JAN 17-21)
Having been pushed all the way by Pakistan in the final two tests, Australia will be hoping for a more comfortable outing as they kick-off a two-test series against the West Indies at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday.
The big news for the hosts is the move for the prolific Steve Smith from the middle-order to opening in place of the retired David Warner, allowing prodigious all-rounder Cameron Green to return to the side at number four and add to an already lethal bowling attack which led the Aussies to the World Test Championship crown.
Meanwhile the Windies will certainly not be weighed down by expectations with as many as seven uncapped players in an already inexperienced squad with batsmen Kavem Hodge and Justin Greaves expected to make their test debuts at Adelaide alongside exciting speedster Shamar Joseph who bowled impressively in a drawn warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI.
The Australians are almost at unbackable odds with both a draw and a first West Indian victory on these shores since 1997 considered less than a 5% chance each. With no serious rain forecast and the Adelaide Oval on a run of ten successive tests without a draw we can comfortably rule out the stalemate, while a famous win for the Calypso Kings seems equally unlikely given that they have just the sole victory over Zimbabwe to show from their endeavours in this format over the past year.
One might argue the return on Australia is better than bank interest but it gives us very little wriggle room so instead we’ll focus on the changes to the Australian top-order. No doubt all the focus will be on how Smith adapts to the role but one player we know who has no issue with the new ball is his opening partner Usman Khawaja who last year was the highest run-scorer in test matches, amassing 1,210 runs at an average of 52.60, almost 300 clear of his nearest rival who funnily enough was Smith. After a series of starts against Pakistan we think the elegant left-hander is primed to really go on with it and stamp his authority on this series.