The sub-continent training in Alur

Australia A’s tour of India helped selectors pick five uncapped players for the upcoming series against Pakistan in Dubai next month.

Australia A skipper Mitchell Marsh in action against India A in Alur.   -  Sudhakara Jain

 

Australia A's tour of India was billed as pivotal preparation for Australia's two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE next month.

That nine of the 15 members in the squad to Dubai played in the quadrangular series and the two unofficial Tests here speaks of the degree of importance.

Left-hand batsman Kurtis Patterson, who failed to make the cut, had earlier said, "What we've tried to do on this tour is put up two good performances as a team. We did that and won in Bengaluru. When teams win, players get picked.”

Patterson couldn't have been more precise in his assessment. In the second 'Test', batting first after winning the toss, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh used their feet so well against the Indian spinners that it appeared as if Australia's keenness to dispel spin demons was translating into action.

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The Australia XI showed the quality of getting stuck in, not throwing away wickets easily and grinding out the opposition.

Former Australia batsman Dean Jones believes the key to doing well in the subcontinent, as a batsman, "lies in playing the ball a bit late and getting used to the conditions — the dust around the feet and the holes."

The Australian top-order, in the second four-day contest, did just that — they used the depth of the crease to go back and exploit the field on the square of the wicket. The batsmen rotated the strike and didn't get trapped in a rut when the runs dried up.

On day four, in Alur, India A unleashed a trial by spin. Three spinners — Kuldeep Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem and K. Gowtham — at one point, bowled 41 overs between them, on the trot.

The field was up, with only one man outside the 30-yard circle at deep-square leg. The ploy was simple: invite the batsmen to step out and take the aerial route.

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The visitor had accumulated 69 runs in the 34 overs bowled in the first session, going at just above two runs an over.

They aren't new to abject capitulations against spin when starved of runs for long stretches, but here they didn't lose a wicket.

It was in that session that one got a sneak peek into what this new bunch of players, under a new captain Tim Paine, could offer in the days to come.

After Tuesday's narrow defeat, skipper Marsh, alluding to his side's risk-averse approach, had remarked "No, there was no real plan of not scoring runs. They (India) just bowled well. At times, when there was an opening, from around the wicket, the ball would just land on the rough and some spat up and some kept down. That's just the way it panned out! "

For a side that prides itself on its aggressive approach, there was a decision to be made: go on an all-out attack and risk being batted out or remain tied down and wait for the bad balls to score runs off. Australia chose the latter, and almost walked away with the draw.

Two years ago, batting in Galle in a series which they eventually lost to host Sri Lanka 0-3, the Australian batsmen came up with a bizarre potpourri of shots and wide range of dismissals — the lack of strong defence on a pitch — that was already very dry and taking turn from the beginning —standing out.

In Alur, they defended with aplomb, making the Indian spinners earn their wickets. For Australia, it's a step in the right direction.

Whether a new dawn awaits them in the desert, only time will tell.