Brisbane: Australia and India have it all to play for when their enthralling, physically punishing series reaches a much-anticipated conclusion when the fourth Test gets underway at the Gabba on Friday.
India’s courageous great escape in Sydney set up the high-stakes finale, with the hard-fought series tied at 1-1.
“We’re aware that this is a big Test match; there’s no doubt about that,” Australian skipper Tim Paine said.
“But it doesn’t change the way that we go about it; we’ve just got to try to execute.” “We feel like when we do that we can beat any team in the world.”
The winner in Brisbane will claim the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and Australia also have the added incentive of moving to the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings with a 2-1 series win.
That result would also see Paine’s men maintain first place in the ICC World Test Championship, while India - in second spot heading into the series finale -can move up to No.1 if they can conjure a victory.
A draw would see India retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and leave New Zealand atop the Test rankings.
The odds are against the depleted tourists, with Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari all adding to India’s injury woes to varying degrees.
But it would be foolhardy to write them off after their final day heroics at the SCG that salvaged a famous draw.
Australia have had to deal with their own injury concerns, with Marcus Harris replacing Will Pucovski (shoulder) at the top of the batting order.
“Harry’s just a no-fuss, very good player,” Paine said of the opener.
“He’s been working his backside off in our hub for a while now. He’s had huge numbers in Sheffield Shield cricket and deserves the opportunity.”
“He’s someone we certainly enjoy having in and around our group and someone we have full confidence in that when he gets in and gets a start, he’ll cash in and make the most of it.”
The home side hasn’t lost a Test match at the storied Brisbane venue since 1988, with Paine confident the pitch will be up to its usual high standard.
On an individual note, Nathan Lyon will play his 100th Test match.
The veteran off-spinner becomes the 13th Australian male to do so, and while his focus is firmly on helping his side to a series win, he also has the opportunity to take his 400th Test wicket.
“I’m pretty excited about this one ... (it’s) very humbling,” Lyon said.
“I look at the other 12 guys who have played over 100 Test matches of cricket for Australia and they’re pure legends in my eyes.” (UNI)