Chennai: The spotlight will be on Test skipper Virat Kohli as India A go into the second and final unofficial Test against Australia A here tomorrow, looking to secure a win after drawing the first match last week.
Looking to get some vital competitive match practice ahead of the tough Sri Lanka tour, Kohli straight away joined the practice sessions yesterday. His decision to play the match was to get acclimatized to the conditions which is similar to Colombo where he would be leading the Indian team for the first time in a three-Test series starting on August 12.
Virat Kohli. Pic/ PTI
In the first unofficial test that ended last week, the wicket condition at MA Chidambaram Stadium was tough and slow resulting in the teams drawing the match. India A hoped for a better wicket for tomorrow's match with a view to assess the pacers as the strip in the last match was 'dead' for fast bowlers.
In fact, the captains of India A and Australia A have termed the first match wicket as one which was difficult to bat on and spin friendly and that the competition between bat and ball was lost.
In the last three days, the grounds men here have been working on the wicket and with Kohli being around in the playing eleven for the hosts, the match is likely to throw a strip that is to the liking of the players.
In the first match, Indian spinners Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra were the biggest gainers with match hauls of six and five wickets respectively, while opening batsman Lokesh Rahul (96 in first innings) made the most of the slow wicket. Skipper Cheteshwar Pujara, Vijay Shankar and Shreyas Iyer also chipped in with useful contributions.
However, the hosts would need to up their game a lot more if they hope to put it across the Australian outfit in the second match to seal the two-match series. The visitors, on the other hand, would be banking on their strong pace attack and their first match hero left-arm spinner Stephen O'Keefe, who claimed eight Indian wickets in the match.
On paper, the hosts, coached by former India skipper Rahul Dravid, look a superior outfit with a mix of experienced players and young talent but they really need to fire collectively against the Aussies, who are a quality fielding and bowling unit. In the first match, Australia failed to keep their top three wickets in tact in the first innings and then could not build on a good start in the second innings.
Australia captain Usman Khawaja also did not properly use his strong fast bowling outfit and in fact had advised new ball bowler of Indian origin, Gurinder Singh Sandhu to bowl off spinners and the bowler also readily came up with breakthrough claiming two vital wickets in the first match. Khawaja would like to assess the wicket at the toss and look to add muscle to his line up. He had already said that spinner Ashton Agar, who was rehabilitating for his shoulder injury, would be available for the match.
The hosts batsmen have to come up with productive plans to negotiating Ashton and O'Keefe bowling in tandem, besides the swinging fast bowlers.