Rain ruins opening day's play at Mohali

Aussies include leggie Steven Smith in team

Rain ruins opening day's play at Mohali

This sleepy town of Punjab woke up to a wet morning thanks to a persistent drizzle that began as early as 3.00 am on Thursday.

The day remained cloudy from morning to afternoon and the intermittent rain, which oscillated between sharp showers to mild drizzle, washed out the opening day’s play of the third Test between Australia and India without even the toss taking place here at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.

And as it often happens, the sun made his appearance shortly after the officials had decided to call it a day at around 1.00 pm. To make up for the lost time, though, the start of the play had been advanced by half an hour from the second day.

 Given how Australia have performed in this series -- losing the first Test in Chennai in the first hour of final day’s play and surrendering the second in Hyderabad in well under four days – India may not be fretting too much over the loss of a day’s play but it was difficult to predict the mood in the Australian camp.

 While some cheekily suggested that it was the best day for Australia so far in the two-Test old series, their actions on the day indicated they were up for the challenge.

The Australian team bus sauntered in at around 11.00 am but they had already announced their playing 11 after stumper Matthew Wade had failed to recover from his ankle injury. Brad Haddin, who had been flown in only three days ago as a cover for Wade, was given his first Test in more than a year.  

 The visitors, in their bid to provide themselves the best chance of winning a match on this trip, bolstered their spin department handing leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith his first India appearance in place of Glenn Maxwell, the off-spinning all-rounder who made his debut in Hyderabad. The Victoria player had failed miserably with the bat but had a few inconsequential wickets to show for.

With James Pattinson out after the one-match axe along with three of his team-mates for indiscipline, Australia were left with few options but to go for three-pronged spin attack, the other two being left-armer Xavier Doherty and off-spinner Nathan Lyon who returned to the mix after sitting out the second Test.    

 Though the pitch here is generally considered to be helpful to pacers at the beginning of the match, Australians were pretty convinced that the square was going to be no different from the ones in Chennai and Hyderabad.

“There’s not much grass to cut off,” Michael Clarke had pointed out on the eve of the match.

“It was quite dry yesterday (Tuesday), probably it would get only dryer. I think the conditions are going to be very similar to what we faced in the first two Test matches. There’s no real surprise there.

 “I know, I've played some cricket in Mohali, generally they leave a bit of grass on the wicket. That’s nice for the fast bowlers. But I’m not surprised that all the grass has been cut off. And that’s part of international cricket,” he had said.

Indians didn’t announce their final 11 but barring the inclusion of opener Shikhar Dhawan, it’s unlikely there’s going to be any change.

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