Familiar demons to follow Australia into New Year’s test

Published : 12:01 am  January 1, 2019 | No comments so far |  | 


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A troubled Australia side will head to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the fourth test against India hoping to turn over a new leaf in 2019 but still plagued by the fall-out of their annus horribilis.   

 Tim Paine’s side suffered a huge reality check at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where they were outplayed with bat and ball before slumping to a 137-run loss on Sunday.   

 The defeat not only left them trailing 2-1 in the series but also made their defiant win in the second match in Perth appear something of a false dawn instead of a turning point in a rebuilding team’s fortunes.   

 Since the ball-tampering scandal exploded in Cape Town in March, leading to long suspensions for former captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, Australia have laboured to five defeats and a draw in seven tests.   
Paine’s side has become defined almost as much by its absentees as the available players out on the field.   

 While Bancroft’s nine-month ban expired on Saturday, Smith and Warner still have three months to serve on their 12-month suspensions.   

 Their replacements have failed to cement themselves and Australia have been unable to move on, Paine admitted after defeat at the MCG.   

 “The guys have nearly finished their bans and nearly done their time, so I think it’s time we started focusing on the fact that they’re coming back and from that there are some real positives,” he said after the defeat.   
 In the short-term, Paine’s team are in danger of becoming the first Australian side to lose a test series to India on home soil, having already conceded the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Virat Kohli’s men.   
 With the Sydney Cricket Ground reliably Australia’s most spin-friendly wicket, the hosts may find it tough going to manufacture a face-saving victory and square the series.   

 Ravindra Jadeja captured five wickets on the MCG’s drop-in pitch, comprehensively winning his duel of spinners with Nathan Lyon, who took just one.   

 The left-arm spinner proved a menace for Australia’s parade of left-handed batsmen and in Sydney could pose one half of a dual-spinning nightmare if Ravichandran Ashwin is fit to bowl.