Plan A: try and take the outside edge. Plan B: bowl straight with a funky leg-side field. Plan C: put in a leg gully. And gone. Travis Head, Australia A’s captain and national skipper Tim Paine – who will be plotting for the weeks ahead – conjured a way to extract a well-set Cheteshwar Pujara for Australia A against the touring Indians; and don’t be surprised if we see plenty of it over the next few weeks.
It’s far-fetched to suggest Australia have an answer to the batsman who was their major nemesis two years ago, but the dismissal was noteworthy enough not just to brush off. On that tour in 2018-19, where he scored 521 runs and faced 1258 deliveries, Pujara fell for a duck in a very similar manner when he flicked Pat Cummins backward of square in the second innings of the MCG Test and was well caught by Marcus Harris who, in a quirk, was also the catcher today.
The fact that Australia were so far behind in that game made it a mere footnote – India would go on to win comfortably and take a 2-1 lead – but as the Test match preparations get into full gear ahead of the first Test in Adelaide from December 17, it wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. Also, it came on the back of Pujara repelling all the other ideas the strong Australia A attack had for him, which included aiming for the more traditional nicks with the new ball before adjusting their lines after lunch.
“I worked closely with Painey out there and tried a few different things,” Head said. “We’re day one into this and it was our first crack at him. We’ve got another innings and then another game before the first Test so nice that one plan was able to work.
“We know what he can bring and he brought that again today, so there was no surprises from that. But I felt like the way we were able to bowl to him from that stage and suffocate and shut down the scoreboard against him was really good. It was nice to see the back of him.”
Head, though, believes whether the leg-gully line of attack will be a regular approach or not to Pujara will depend significantly on the surfaces. It is no secret that Australia would like pace and bounce in the pitches for the four Tests, although when the plan worked to Pujara in Melbourne, it was on the slowest pitch of the series.
“At the start we were trying to get him caught behind and caught in the slips. That was the way it was playing, but once the ball got softer it became more stump-to-stump,” Head said.
“I guess you rotate through plans A, B and C, and I think a lot determines on who’s bowling and what type of wickets we’re playing on. It’s a lot different at the Adelaide Oval to the MCG and Sydney.”