And so it all comes down to this. The ultimate decider for a series that has had drama, excitement, extraordinary swings in fortune, a dose of controversy and even uncertainty over where the next match would be played. India only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but the Gabba is usually a result-orientated ground. It’s winner takes all, a rare situation for the final Test of an Australian summer.
The home side will be pleased that the scheduling challenges of the season have meant that Brisbane is the final stop. They have not been beaten here since 1988 although it remains to be seen whether the surface for a January Test differs at all from one in November. It is also the first game of first-class cricket at the ground this season.
Ajinkya Rahane termed India’s magnificent escape at the SCG as good as a win, but their resources continue to be stretched to breaking point. However, from the moment they were bowled out for 36 in Adelaide they have been galvanised, never better epitomised by the stand between Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin which means the series is at this point.
This match will be the biggest challenge in terms of fitness and recovery, especially for the fast bowlers. Adelaide was a short game, after Melbourne there was a week’s gap, but this time it’s been three days. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are all good to go again, but they will surely hope that Australia can bat first.
Australia, and especially captain Tim Paine, have shown signs of the tension that has crept into the series and this is a significant match for a side that for a year had looked on a steady upward curve. India, meanwhile, will have to overcome more injuries and the history of the venue. If they succeed it will be one of the greatest victories.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
Matthew Wade helped Australia plug a gap for the first two Tests when he moved up to open but did not have a good match at the SCG back at No. 5. His first-innings shot, picking out mid-on shortly before the second new-ball, was not a great bit of batting although he got a decent delivery in the second. He has not been shunted around again despite Will Pucovski’s injury, and Justin Langer likes the attributes he brings to the team, but this has the feel of an important match for Wade in terms of where he stands when Australia next pick a Test side – whenever that might be.
Shubman Gill has looked a Test match batsman in the two matches he’s played this series. His four scores between 31 and 50 have oozed class and it promises to be a long and successful career. Does he have a defining innings in him for this match? While he is just starting out and it would be harsh to criticise, his three dismissals have been frustrating purely because he has looked so much at home in the arena. The Gabba can be challenging for overseas players, but once set it can also be a wonderful place to bat.
Australia have confirmed one change with Marcus Harris recalled in place of Pucovski who has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. It will be Harris’ first Test since the 2019 Ashes.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Marcus Harris, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Matthew Wade, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
India will need to find at least two replacements with Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja ruled out and may yet need more with doubts over Jasprit Bumrah. Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan could come into the mix, with Kuldeep Yadav as a second spinner if R Ashwin recovers as the lead spinner. India could also play both Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha or bring back Mayank Agarwal in place of Vihari and continue with Pant as the designated wicketkeeper.
India (possible) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Rishabh Pant, 6 Mayank Agarwal/Wriddhiman Saha, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Jasprit Bumrah/Shardul Thakur/T Natarajan, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Pitch and conditions
The Gabba is known for its pace and carry although there are a few uncertainties due to the lack of cricket this season and the later start to the game (there have only been two January Tests at the ground). The forecast for the opening day is good but there’s a chance of storms on Saturday then showers over the rest of the game.
Stats and trivia
- Lyon, playing his 100th Test, needs four wickets to reach 400
- India have played six Tests at the Gabba, losing five and drawing one – in 2003
- This is the first deciding Test of a series in Australia (with the scoreline level) since the Perth match against South Africa in 2012 when the teams were locked at 0-0
“We set high expectations for ourselves and last week we didn’t meet them and when you don’t do that you leave yourself to criticism and we’ve copped that on the chin. We’re now looking forward to this Test match…so we can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo