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‘You don’t have to say anything to have mongrel’ – Travis Head

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Ahead of his first Test on home soil in Adelaide, Travis Head expects Australia to walk taller in the field against India for the presence of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. He does not, however, predict Australia’s players to be shooting their mouths off in their first Test at home since the Newlands scandal brought a rush of change to the game, including a new captain and coach in Tim Paine and Justin Langer.

As one of seven batsmen in the squad, Head is bracing for a couple days of highly competitive training as the selectors make their final call on the shape of the starting XI for the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar series, but it would be difficult to imagine the South Australia captain being denied a chance to start in the middle order at Adelaide Oval, the ground he has played more of his cricket than anywhere else.

Head set out the sort of attitude he expected from an Australian team shorn of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, replying to questions about whether the team possessed enough “mongrel” by effectively stating that bite would be much more important than bark if the hosts are to emerge victorious. “I think the bowlers when they compete, and they’re fierce and aggressive, I think they have that,” he said in Adelaide. “I hope they bring that, I know they do it consistently, they bowl aggressively.

“Words are sometimes cheap, it’s how they bowl and their actions and if that mongrel means Starcy bowling 150, Cummo hitting a really hard length, same as Hoff, it’s bowling aggressive, being aggressive, just the way we play, the way we bat, being aggressive in defence, aggressive on the bad ball, aggressive in the field, attacking the ball hard, it’s in our actions not just how it looks on TV sometimes.

“The way you buzz around the field, the way you cut down runs, the way you create pressure, you don’t have to say anything to have mongrel. Some players will, some players won’t. I try to attack the ball all the time as hard as I can to put pressure on the batters, and when I bat, [I] get into that contest and just compete. That’s what cricket’s about, enjoying it and playing with a smile, but when you’re in the contest, not letting them get on top and winning.”

Central to that contest will be India’s captain Virat Kohli, whom Head has seen up close as a team-mate in the IPL. “I don’t think I’ll have to bowl to him, which is good,” Head quipped. “Hopefully the boys get him under control. I think facing the three big quicks, I know how much hard work it is. If they can put him under enough pressure, anybody in the world is a human. We know he’s good player, I’ve seen it first hand at Bengaluru, he’s an extremely good player, but I think we’ve got the bowlers to do the job. They’re one of the best bowling units in the world.”

Head’s memories of Adelaide Tests past include sitting at the ground with his family to watch England bat for almost two days in 2006, before being entranced by the way Ricky Ponting’s team went on to conjure a win out of nowhere. More recently he was in the stands for Nathan Lyon’s last-day heroics to bowl out India in 2014, the emotional first Test played after the death of Phillip Hughes. That dramatic final day came in the second Test after the redeveloped Adelaide Oval unveiled a drop-in pitch, and Head said the curator Damian Hough had evolved a surface which provided a little assistance for everyone.

“In the Shield games it’s been really good, bit of a new-ball wicket, batters have got in once the ball’s got a bit older, and it’s spun. So it’s done everything really well,” he said. “The last time India were here, Lyono took a lot of wickets on day five and it spun quite a bit. I think it’ll be a good wicket all round. With the hot weather, hopefully it’s got a bit of pace in it; I know Houghy is trying to get it quicker each time. As the Shield season’s gone on, the wicket’s become quicker.

“[Pacemen] have been successful but there’s been a little bit there, a bit of rough for spin, so with five days, Lyono and spin will come into the game. It’ll offer something for everyone. The two Shield games here have shown that if batters get in they can get runs.

“We’ve seen Shaun [Marsh] make 170 not out here the other day, but [with] the new ball there was a bit on offer. With the wicket, the extra grass, the thatchiness of the grass, it brings spin into play, it’s spun from day one in the Shield game, we saw Popey [wrist spinner Lloyd Pope] take a seven-for on day one, so all round, Houghy’s done an amazing job. He’s made for a wicket for everyone, the perfect combination.”

As for the competition provided by the inclusion of Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb, alongside five of the batsmen who turned out in the UAE against Pakistan, Head predicted plenty of willing contests in the nets, not least when Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins are charging in. “You don’t get anything easy; they’ll test us out over the next couple of days, which will be good, then you’ll walk out into the middle knowing you’ve prepared well,” he said.

“I’ll know I’m ready to go. If you can get through these ones, you can get through anyone in the world. So it’ll be an exciting week, a challenging week facing them, but a couple of days of training and we’ll be ready to go.”



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Cricket

Steven Smith captains grade team to T20 title

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Steven Smith led his grade side Sutherland to the New South Wales Premier T20 title at the SCG on Sunday.

While the Australia Test team was going head-to-head with India in Perth, Smith made scores of 42 and 19 in the semi-finals and final at a venue he has lit up during his international career.

The T20 finals were the first time Smith had captained a team since the controversy in South Africa which saw him stripped of the Australia captaincy. He won’t be eligible to return to that role for a further 12 months after his initial ban finishes, but that does not extend to club cricket.

His next chance to play for Australia at the SCG won’t come until next season as he sees out the remainder of his year-long ban after the Newlands ball-tampering.



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Virat Kohli, Tim Paine collide, exchange words before umpire interrupts

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The fourth day witnessed heated conversations between the two captains, Tim Paine and Virat Kohli, in Perth as Australia were strengthening their grip on the match. During the wicketless first session, the captains even came into physical contact when Paine ran down the pitch for a single in the 71st over of the innings. As Paine nudged the first ball of the over towards midwicket for a run, Kohli ran towards the pitch in anticipation of collecting the ball and collided with Paine before the batsman could reach the non-striker’s end. Even as Kohli collected the ball and made his way towards mid-on for the next delivery, Paine followed him for a couple of steps for a few words before umpire Chris Gaffaney interrupted to remind them they were the captains.

Kohli to Paine: “I’m not saying a word to you, why are you getting riled up?”
Paine to Kohli: “I’m fine. You’re the one that lost it yesterday, why are you trying to be cool today?”
Chris Gaffaney: “Oi, that’s enough, that’s enough.”
Paine: “We’re allowed to talk.”
Gaffaney: “Nah, nah, come on, play the game. You guys are the captains.”
Paine: “We can have a conversation… there’s no swearing, no…”
Gaffaney: “Tim you’re the captain.”
Paine: “Keep your cool, Virat!”

When Paine was walking off after being dismissed for 37 eight overs later, Kohli said a few more words that made the Australia captain turn around for a reply.

Kohli and Paine had earlier been recorded exchanging words after a caught-behind appeal against Australia’s captain was turned down on the third evening. Walking past Paine, Kohli had remarked to his team-mates “If he messes it up, it’s 2-0”, moving Paine to retort “You’ve got to bat first, big head”.



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Evin Lewis returns for WI as Bangladesh opt to bat

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Toss Bangladesh opt to bat v West Indies

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan chose to bat first against West Indies in the first T20I in Sylhet.

From their last T20I, also against West Indies in August this year, Bangladesh have made two changes. They have replaced Rubel Hossain and Nazmul Islam with Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mohammad Saifuddin.

West Indies have included Evin Lewis, Rovman Powell and Sheldon Cottrell to their XI, as they go without Denesh Ramdin, the injured Kieron Powell and left-arm spinner Khary Pierre.

Bangladesh: 1 Liton Das, 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Soumya Sarkar, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Ariful Haque, 8 Mohammad Saifuddin, 9 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 10 Abu Hider, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

West Indies: 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Shai Hope, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 8 Fabian Allen, 9 Keemo Paul, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas



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