India and Australia are back in action on Friday morning, and Richard Mann has bets at 9/1 and 11/4 for the second Test which takes place in Delhi.
Cricket tips: India v Australia second Test
2pts Steve Smith top Australia first-innings batsman at 11/4 (General)
2pts Ravi Ashwin to be Man of the Match at 9/1 (Sky Bet)
0.5pts Travis Head top Australia first-innings bowler at 14/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
I’m expecting more of the same when India and Australia renew hostilities in the second Test in Delhi on Friday morning, with the hosts fancied to claim another comprehensive victory.
The first Test was a complete disaster for Australia, who failed to take advantage of winning the toss and being able to bat first on a slow surface that spun, though not excessively so, and the tourists were rolled out for 177 and 91.
But there’s much more to that story than an innings defeat. The groundwork for a disastrous tour was laid weeks before their Nagpur nightmare, with Australia opting to pick a squad packed with left-handed batsmen, many of whom have historically struggled against spin, even though off-spinner Ravi Ashwin was looming large as India’s chief threat.
Australia’s brittle batting Left in a spin
Sure enough, Australia eventually went with five left-handers in their top seven last week, with Travis Head – you guessed it, another left-hander – missing out despite coming into this series on the back of the best year of his career and a fruitful home summer.
Head could well return for the second Test, with Matt Renshaw’s two low scores in Nagpur putting his place at risk, but the former missed out because of a poor tour of Sri Lanka earlier in the year and then having endured a torrid time against spin in practice ahead of the first Test.
Were Cameron Green to be passed fit and return to that top six, the presence of another right-hander would be a boost to Australia, but he hasn’t played competitive cricket since the Boxing Day Test.
Of those five left-handers who played in Nagpur, only Alex Carey (36 and 10) and David Warner (10) managed double figures across two innings and from what we saw in that match, or indeed when England visited these shores in early 2021, India are less concerned with producing five-day pitches, much preferring to play to their strengths and put as many factors in their favour as possible.
That should ensure batting remains hard work for the hosts, particularly the left-handers who appear to have no plan against Ashwin and co.
Carey might have been the pick of the lefties last week, but his plan to sweep or reverse sweep virtually every ball reeks of having no trust in his defence against spin, and that just isn’t sustainable for a long innings. Carey’s two dismissals in Nagpur were both when playing the reverse sweep.
He’s not alone, though, and playing unders on runs for all of Australia’s left-handers could prove a profitable strategy across this match.
Smith a class apart for tourists
It’s certainly something worth keeping in mind, but for now I’m happy to stick with STEVE SMITH for top Australia first-innings batsman at 11/4.
Smith and Labuschagne looked streets ahead of their colleagues in the first Test, where the latter top scored in the first innings and the former second time around with an unbeaten 25.
I don’t see that theme changing this week or thereafter, and I’m really buoyed by Smith’s current form which saw him finish the recent home series against South Africa with a century, before he dominated the Big Bash in five matches that yielded two more hundreds.
Furthermore, with a career average of 60.16 in India, we know this excellent player of spin is well-suited to these conditions and the nature of the opposition, and has the defensive game needed to bat for long periods against such a fine attack. Many of his teammates do not.
As I wrote in my series preview last week, I have this down as a match with Labuschagne and given Smith has the greater experience in India, and excellent current form, I think general quotes of 11/4 are extremely fair.
There is a slight temptation to add Pat Cummins (60/1, Unibet) to the staking plan, another right-hander who defends well but has shown in the IPL in particular that he can hit a long ball.
The main issue here is that despite his obvious potential, Cummins’ returns in Test cricket with the bat over the last few years have been modest. I do believe he’s capable of better, but with such a strong view on Smith, I can just about pass over a saver on Cummins.
Ashwin to the fore once more
That isn’t the case where the Man of the Match market is concerned, with RAVI ASHWIN looking a good bet at 9/1 (Sky Bet).
I’m firmly of the view that India will win again, and if conditions are once more tough for batting, there is a strong chance one of the home bowlers picks up the award – Ravi Jadeja’s seven wickets and 70 runs won him the gong in Nagpur.
As expected, Ashwin enjoyed a field day in the first Test, claiming three wickets in the first innings and five in the second, meaning he finished with match figures of 27.5-5-79-8. He’ll continue to be a huge thorn in Australia’s side, with a four-match series perfect for exposing opposition weakness and then praying on it over the course of a long series.
Looking at the options open to Australia within their squad, Ashwin can expect to continue to feast on a plethora of left-handers. A handy lower-order batsman as well, there is lots to like about a man whose record at home is outstanding.
Paddy Power and the Betfair Sportsbook had earlier this week priced Ashwin up at 5/1 to finish as Player of the Series, but with that now trimmed up – much to this writer’s frustration – I’ll concentrate on the Man of the Match market instead, with the 9/1 making plenty of appeal.
Those who read the series preview last week will be well aware that Smith and Aswhin carry my hopes in the outright series markets, but at this early stage I want to judge each match on its merits. As such, at the current prices, I can’t pass up on this high-class pair.
Finally, I must mention Australia batsman TRAVIS HEAD who was probably unlucky to miss out last week, for all he’s another left-hander who struggles against spin.
I don’t give him much chance against Ashwin, but his own off-spin is pretty handy and he does have a Test best of 4-10, coming against Sri Lanka in similarly spinning conditions in the middle of last year.
Very much a part-timer, this isn’t a project to get carried away on, but I made the point on this week’s Cricket…Only Bettor podcast about why Nathan Lyon has struggled on so many tours of India, with the huge overspin he puts on the ball not generating the same sort of bounce that it does in Australia and elsewhere.
If the pitch bounces in Delhi, Lyon will be a threat like he is at home when the close in fielders are always in the game, but if we get another slow turner which doesn’t bounce, he will be much less effective and Todd Murphy can once again prove Australia’s main man.
Murphy claimed seven wickets on his Test debut last week. Much like Jadeja, he preferred to drive the ball into the surface and bowl very straight. He got his just rewards, too, while Lyon finished with figures of 1-125 from 49 largely ineffective overs.
The obvious choice would be to stick with Murphy, but Head is another who darts the ball into the pitch and I reckon he’ll be hard work if conditions are similar to Nagpur.
Australia ought to suss that out pretty quickly, and 14/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook) is worth a spin in my book.
Preview posted at 1720 GMT on 15/02/2023
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