England’s five-match one-day series against Ashes conquerors Australia gets under way in Melbourne on Sunday.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses five key areas of debate.
CAN ENGLAND DISMISS STEVE SMITH WITH A WHITE BALL?
Having found the red Kookaburra no more use than a bar of soap when it came to getting out the Australia captain during the Test series, England will be hoping the change of hue brings a change of fortunes. Having averaged 137.40 in the Ashes, it can hardly get any worse, but England skipper Eoin Morgan has already suggested his opposite number is just one of many threats. “I don’t think he is the key wicket,” he said. “He is an unbelievable player and his run of form has been freakish, but there are loads of other impact players in their side.”
WOOD TO MAKE HIS MARK
Durham paceman Mark Wood is an alluring figure for English cricket fans starved of pace during recent years. He is an effervescent presence in the middle, generating venomous deliveries off a short, staccato run and asking questions many of his compatriots simply cannot. But his international CV is a frustratingly slender one, hampered by a catalogue of injuries. Now fully fit, hopes are high he can leave his mark on the Aussies in their own back yard.
England appear to have drawn a line under Adil Rashid’s Test career, with Liam Dawson and Mason Crane both selected to partner Moeen Ali since he last appeared. Positioning the Yorkshire leg-spinner as a one-day specialist is fine, as long he understands and appreciates the decision. If he does not, England might soon find one of their most reliable performers in the shorter formats allows questions of confidence or technical doubts to slip in.
SILVERWOOD CHECKS IN
The arrival of Chris Silverwood as fast bowling coach offers plenty of reason for interest and intrigue. Not only do England’s seamers have a permanent specialist to bounce off after the vacancy was only partially filled during the Ashes – initially by Shane Bond and then, improbably, by Paul Collingwood – they also have a newly influential figure around the dressing room. Having won the county title with Essex last year he comes with considerable coaching pedigree and is being hotly tipped to take the top job when Trevor Bayliss leaves in September 2019. It will be fascinating to see him work with the group.
FOOT ON THROAT OR FOOT OFF GAS
Marcus Stoinis created a vivid image when he said the aim was the keep Australia’s foot on England’s throat in the one-day series, but there is plenty of precedent for sides slacking off once the main business has been settled. Australia have shown intent by keeping so many Test winners involved, but will they be able to keep their intensity up or will they go the way of their 2007 predecessors, who were upset by the likes of Paul Nixon and Mal Loye? By resting Josh Hazlewood for the first ODI and Pat Cummins for the second, there are already signs the artillery will not be as intense this month.
After being on the receiving end of a 72-run defeat in the opening Test against South Africa, India pacer Jasprit Bumrah is staying positive as we head towards the second Test at Centurion starting on Saturday.
“Confidence is not dented after one match. If it happens, then you don’t deserve to play. Learn from the mistake you made and go forward. There is not a single cricketer who has not made a mistake,” the youngster told reporters after India’s practice session on Thursday.
Bumrah, who made his Test debut for the country in the loss at Newlands, was a touch expensive in the first innings before coming back strongly in the second to pick up three wickets in South Africa’s collapse on day four
He picked up the wicket of AB De Villiers in the first innings to register his maiden Test scalp but Bumrah was not willing to term it as a dream debut.
“It was not a dream debut. I was happy with whatever I learnt from that match. As a bowler you look to get the first wicket early and I got AB de Villiers,” he said.
“It was a happy moment, and from there on, we took a lot more wickets. As a bowler, my motto is not to get too excited and not to get too down after every match. I want to take confidence in to the next match,” Bumrah added.
Playing in his first overseas Test tour, the Mumbai-born man explained that his experience in the first Test had been a big learning curve.
“It’s always challenging whenever you come to a new country, the wickets are different, the weather is different. You get a fair idea of the lines and lengths to bowl. You need to adapt. I never go by perceptions,” he stated.
“In the first innings we thought we bowled a little fuller than the normal here because in India we have to pitch fuller to get the swing and to get the batsmen on to the front foot. Over here, there is bounce, so there is a little bit of difference in length.
“We analysed that, adapted in the second innings and were able to create pressure,” he explained.
Proteas batsman Aiden Markram meanwhile said that runs will be up for grabs at the Centurion wicket if history was anything to go by.
“Usually it’s a good batting wicket here, there have been some big scores. But how they have prepared it this time I’m not too sure. I’m pretty sure they are going to prepare it similar to last week, maybe not as extreme,” he said on the sidelines of South Africa’s net session.
Markram was wary of India’s quality going into the second Test and expects a big response from the No1 ranked side in the world.
“There’s a reason why they are the No. 1 team in the world — they have quality players in all departments. They tick all the boxes and they have come here to compete, which is great,” he remarked.
South Africa lead the three-match series 1-0 as we head into the second Test at the SuperSport Park at Centurion starting on Sunday.
After succumbing to a 72-run defeat to South Africa in Newlands, India will be have their work cut out for them in the second Test at Centurion starting on Saturday.
Virat Kohli’s men were in sight of a famous overseas win after being set a target of 208 runs in the final innings but a Vernon Philander special knocked the stuffing out of the visitors to give South Africa the early advantage.
The stakes for India will be high at the SuperSport Park with the three-match Test series marking the beginning of a 2018 which sees them embark on some tough overseas tours.
As such, we look at the key talking points ahead of the crucial second Test.
WILL KL RAHUL AND AJINKYA RAHANE FEATURE?
Both were selections based on current form more than anything else but the gambit failed to pay off for the Indians.
Dhawan fell prey to the short-ball in both innings while Sharma failed to ease any doubts about his overseas credentials yet again.
With calls to reinstate the more technically sound Rahul and Rahane growing from all quarters, Kohli will have lots to ponder about ahead of Saturday.
The fact that Rahane and Rahul were seen going hard at the nets the day after the defeat at Newlands suggests the duo could be in contention at Centurion but Kohli has never shied away from making bold calls earlier and it would not be a surprise to see Dhawan and Sharma retained.
ASHWIN AND JADEJA FIGHT IT OUT FOR LONE SPINNER’S SLOT
Such were the conditions on offer at Newlands that India could well be tempted to go for an all-pace bowling lineup at Centurion. However, with two world-class spinners at their disposal, it is certain that Kohli will opt for at least one on Saturday.
Ravindra Jadeja’s illness meant there was no such headache for the Indian skipper in the first Test but there will be one now. Ravichandran Ashwin bowled only one over in the second innings at Newlands but he did pick up two wickets.
Jadeja though has a more formidable record in South Africa and his accuracy and control means he could be a much better option at holding one end up for the seamers.
INDIA’S PACE BATTERY
Kohli’s selections headaches are not only limited to the batting and spin departments with a similar conundrum facing the Indian skipper when it comes to the pace battery.
The visitors’ pacers held up their end of the bargain in the opening Test, especially in the second innings. The pace quartet of Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya showed just why they were as good as the Proteas bowling attack.
With Centurion being a bouncy track traditionally, Ishant Sharma could become an option for the Indians.
Bumrah’s second innings showing at Newlands means it will be difficult to leave him out of the attack while Shami and Bhuvneshwar were equally impressive.
SOUTH AFRICA FACE PACE DILEMMA OF THEIR OWN
With Dale Steyn’s injury breaking up the dream pace quartet of himself alongside Kagiso Rabada, Philander and Morne Morkel after just one Test, Faf du Plessis will have a choice to make when it comes to the fourth pacer.
Chris Morris is an option for the Proteas skipper along with Duanne Olivier. The 25-year-old was one of the positives from the Test series defeat to England last year while Morris is a familiar hand.
Du Plessis might also ponder about throwing in an extra batsman in place of Steynor or go for a much safer bet in all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.