Australia spin worry ahead of India
Australia's series win over Sri Lanka did nothing to ease the uncertainty over their batsmen facing India's spinners on next month's tour to the subcontinent, newspapers said on Monday.
Australia made hard work of chasing down 141 runs for victory on a turning Sydney Cricket Ground pitch before wrapping up a five-wicket win in the final test and a 3-0 series clean sweep.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took three wickets for 47 and had most of the Australian top order in trouble in a tense few hours late on Sunday's fourth day.
Australian newspapers, looking ahead to the four-test tour to India, sense problems ahead for the team, who will now be without 79-test veteran Mike Hussey following his test retirement.
"Australia won a test yesterday, but missed a precious chance to get their house in order," News Ltd's Robert Craddock said.
"As a consequence, they will fly into India for a four-test tour a bit like an explorer heading into a dark forest at night.
"A pungent whiff of uncertainty is in the air."
Craddock said there were two unsolved issues in the Australian team ahead of the series in India.
"There are two major issues which will land like a bag of cement on Australia's doorstep in India – the choice of a second spinner to support Nathan Lyon and the recall of Usman Khawaja as the long-term replacement for Mike Hussey," he said.
Similarly, the Sydney Morning Herald said the final test revealed some of the problems ahead of Australia in India.
"Those three nervous hours at the SCG were just a foretaste of Chennai and Hyderabad," cricket writer Malcolm Knox said.
"It won't have gone unnoticed that the batsman who coped with the spin bowling and noisy close-in fields better than anyone except Clarke was the bloke who came in at No 5 (Hussey).
"A cover-drive, a pull, a reverse-sweep, and safe carriage to the end. Farewell, Mr Cricket, we'll miss you. And for your team, 46 days from now in Delhi, they'll miss you."
Knox said only Clarke and his dancing feet looked relatively at ease playing spin in the Sydney test.
He added that Australia's run chase was more tense than the scorecard indicated and was a guide to how the batsmen will fare in the test series in India.
Clarke admitted Australia's batsmen needed to work on ways to play India's spinners on their conducive wickets.
"Especially in the second innings on the subcontinent, it is generally very tough to play spin bowling," he said after Sunday's win.
"There's areas we need to continually get better at, spin bowling is one of those areas.
"In a couple of months' time we're going to be faced with conditions that do spin a lot so there's no better place to get better than on the subcontinent."