Captain Kohli's blistering double century, Perera's shocking figures and other talking points

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India are in the driver's seat in the Nagpur Test.

India took complete control of the second Test against Sri Lanka with captain Virat Kohli smashing his fifth double century in Tests and Rohit Sharma also joining the run fest with an unbeaten century. India amassed 610-6 to put the Test beyond the Sri Lankans.

India will most likely call the shots over the next two days.

Here, we look at two good and two bad efforts during the third day’s play in Nagpur.

THE GOOD

Kohli’s strike rate

Captain Kohli’s double century was as effortless as it was high on strokeplay. In a a match where the rest of the batsmen took their time to score runs, Kohli batted freely scoring 213 off 267 balls at a strike rate of a shade under 80. It made up for the scoring rates of Murali Vijay (128 off 221) and the exceptionally slow Cheteshwar Pujara (143 off 362), and allowed India to have a go at Sri Lanka late in the day.

Virat Kohli smashed his fifth double century.

Virat Kohli smashed his fifth double century.

Rohit stakes his claim

Ajinkya Rahane got out for his third straight single digit score in the ongoing series, vacating the scene for his Mumbai team-mate Rohit Sharma to step up and score a century. No doubt the conditions and opposition made it that much easier but a hundred is a hundred and Sharma got there. Sharma is not a regular Test batsman but he does have four fifty plus scores in his last five innings. The selectors are looking at various options for the upcoming tour of South Africa and Sharma has done his chances no harm at all.

Rohit Sharma (l) made the most of his opportunity.

Rohit Sharma (l) made the most of his opportunity.

THE BAD

Perera’s forgettable outing

Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera was a key performer during Sri Lanka’s stunning series win against Pakistan in the UAE. He took four wickets in the first Test and eight in the second. But in Nagpur, he looked far from a match-winner. While veteran left-armer Rangana Herath kept the scoring down by giving away just 81 runs from 39 overs, Perera undid all that hard work by bleeding 202 from 45. What’s worse, he had dropped centurion Murali Vijay when the batsman was on 61.

Perera went for more than 200 runs in second Test.

Perera went for more than 200 runs in second Test.

Rahane’s home woes

Ajinkya Rahane is a bit of an enigma. A technical maestro, Rahane’s home record pales in comparison to his away tally. The Mumbai batsman averages just 35 from 18 home games but 53 in 24 away matches. It makes it that much more difficult to pick him first up, at least in home Tests. His scores of 4, 0 and 2 in this series allowed the focus to drift to Rohit and the team management will be forced to think that much harder about the likely playing XI for the South Africa Tests.

Ajinkya Rahane doesn't have a good record at home.

Ajinkya Rahane doesn’t have a good record at home.

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Verdict on Shikhar Dhawan, Ravi Ashwin and Umesh Yadav for India's tour of South Africa

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Bhuvneshwar Kumar has become one of the best Test bowlers in the world.

India came within three wickets of a remarkable victory in the first Test at Kolkata. Sri Lanka fought well and were in the game as late as the second session on the final day at Eden Gardens. The hosts were ahead by just 159 runs when the seventh wicket fell and with nearly 50 overs of play left. But a superlative century by captain Virat Kohli put the target beyond the Sri Lankans and allowed India to truly dominate in the final session before bad light denied them an opportunity to go for victory.

While there are a lot of positives for the Indians going into the second Test in Nagpur, the bigger narrative here is the buildup to the New Year’s Test in South Africa. India, obviously, want to win the ongoing Test series but they also want to find the right line-up that can take on the Proteas. Which is why the Indians opted for a green-top in Kolkata, a move that almost backfired as they were shot out for 172 in the first innings.
The Indian team management will be looking at three key positions keeping the South African series in mind and after the first Test in Kolkata, should have a clearer idea about at least two.
The opening combination looks like a closed case with KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan adding 166 in the second innings. The left-right combination will be critical in South Africa as Dhawan is likely to be the only left-handed batsman in the entire team. That means Murali Vijay will have to wait for one of the two incumbents to fail spectacularly.
India’s spinners were mere spectators at Eden Gardens. Ravi Ashwin bowled eight overs in the first innings while Ravindra Jadeja bowled one in both innings. The South Africans will have at least two left-handed batsmen – Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – in the top order and Ashwin looks more capable of containing batsmen as he has better variations than Jadeja. Plus he is a more reliable batsman.
As far as the pace attack is concerned, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami select themselves for the South Africa tour unless there are any fitness issues. The two were outstanding in Kolkata, especially in the second innings where they bowled with venom and almost pulled off victory in one session.
However, Umesh Yadav looked down on pace and bite. If he doesn’t find another gear or two then veteran quick Ishant Sharma or even limited overs specialist Jasprit Bumrah will most likely take his place. Both Sharma and Bumrah are quick and get a lot more bounce out of the wicket than Yadav and the team management will surely have a word with him about it.
Many expected the Indians to breeze through the series but Sri Lanka proved more than a handful. Kohli’s team will be even more focused as they simply have to get their gameplan spot on. Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal proved tough to handle. Just imagine what Hashim Amla, de Kock and Kagiso Rabada will be like.

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Debate: Will Australia win The Ashes on home soil against England?

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The Ashes start on Thursday, with Australia slight favourites thanks to their home advantage. England may be the current holders of the famous urn, but the last time the series was played Down Under, the Aussies completed a 5-0 whitewash.

However, England have endured a fraught build-up to the series, and Australia will bank on their home conditions to help them pull through.

Who will win the Ashes?

Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.

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ALEX BROUN, SAYS YES

There are six very good reasons why Australia will win the upcoming Ashes series, with every chance of a 5-0 whitewash: David Warner, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

This is the core of the Australian batting and bowling attack that I fully expect to take England apart this summer.

All six have runs and wickets in abundance, are in form, and love playing in Australian conditions.

Take the freakish Steve Smith for starters. His scores in the last five Tests in Australia are 48*, 31, 59, 40, 130, 63, 165*, 24 and 59 for an aggregate of 619 and a scary average (if you’re an England supporter) of 88.42. Khawaja’s isn’t much worse (480 runs at 60.00) with Warner on 460 at 51.11.

Steve Smith and his team will be a scary proposition for their visitors.

Steve Smith and his team will be a scary proposition for their visitors.

But what if England do somehow get through these three? Well they’ll have to deal with Peter Handscomb who is Smith-like with his Australian Tests performances: 54, 1*, 105, 35*, 54, 110 and 40*, totalling 399 from four Tests at an average of 99.75.

Throw in the in-form Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh, yes – picked on form – and the Australian batting line up spells three words: runs, runs, runs.

I can’t see any reason why this is going to change against the 30 plus and injury prone England “pace” attack, who only ever perform well in English conditions. Sadly for the tourists I can’t see their batsmen doing the same when they are the crease with the peerless Starc, refreshed Cummins and McGrath-clone Hazlewood ready to rip in.

Together Starc and Hazlewood have taken 139 wickets in Australia with a bowling average of 27.60 and if you think Cummins is going to absolutely let rip in his first home Test series you are probably right. I fully expect the trio to destroy England’s top order.

If you need any more reasons try a thing called history. The last time England visited in 2013-14 they got spanked by 381 runs, 218 runs, 150 runs, eight wickets and 281 runs as the Aussies blanked them 5-0.

Looking at the two teams on paper, it is hard to see a different result in 2017-18.

CHRIS BAILEY, SAYS NO

For weeks we’ve heard that England are underpowered, undermanned, undercooked. It’s been undeserved scrutiny compared to an Australia team whose bursting seams have finally been revealed.

The tourists have their fair share of problems – there’s no doubt about that. To once again lean on a pair of 30-something pacemen in James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and hope neither Chris Woakes nor Jake Ball break down while bowling with enough menace on the flattest of tracks, is a big ask. There are also question marks in the batting order over the heads of Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and James Vince, even though all to some extent showed promise against the pretty shoddy warm-up ensembles.

For all the usual Australian bluster however – you know it’s Ashes season when Glenn McGrath has predicted another Baggy Green whitewash – stones and glasshouses come to mind.

Joe Root and company have a challenge on their hands.

Joe Root and company have a challenge on their hands.

That Australia coach Darren Lehmann, 48 in February, has scored a Sheffield Shield century more recently than surprise wicket keeper call-up Tim Paine, speaks for how depleted they are behind the stumps. Adam Gilchrist, or even Brad Haddin, Paine certainly isn’t.

Shaun Marsh, hardly the sort of player to boost Aussie morale, returns at No6 while Cameron Bancroft – who was so-so for Gloucestershire in England’s Division Two this year – opens instead of an out-of-form Matt Renshaw.

England will not be quivering heading into the Gabba but it is nonetheless fiendishly hard to win any away Test series and some of the Aussies are simply different animals in their own territory. Take Usman Khawaja, an enigma on his travels but a scorer of four centuries in 12 home Tests.

Facing one of the weakest Australia teams in years may not tilt the pendulum heavily in their favour given their own deficiencies, but a batting spine of Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali is made of sterner stuff than the hosts may care to admit.

Don’t be surprised either if a certain Ben Stokes returns in time for Christmas to put a lump of coal in Aussie stockings.

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