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Millennium Post

Famous rivalry resumes

Border-Gavaskar Trophy will get a new meaning on Friday as India take on Australia here with many of the big names, who dominated the sport in the last decade, having retired in the last couple of years.

With no Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Michael Hussey this time around, India and Australia will lock horns in the first of the four-match Test series here at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Both the teams are going through a transition phase. India have suffered 10 defeats in 17 Tests while Australia have suffered just two losses in their last 15 Tests. It seems, Australia are transitioning fine while Indian are still struggling. But, India offers a completely different challenge to Australia. India-Australia Test series by all means has become of the fiercely fought contests in world series and lost is at stake for both the teams.

Australia are currently ranked third in the ICC Test rankings and leads fifth-ranked India by 12 ratings points. However, this could potentially change, depending how the series pans out.

In the two practice matches Australia played against India A and Indian Board President's XI, the visitors struggled heavily against spin bowling. They will have a tough task against the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh.

The Chennai Test will also be the 100th Test for Harbhajan, who also made a name for himself being in the epic 2000-01 series between the two sides where he was named as the Man of the Series.

India would also like to avenge humiliation of a 0-4 whitewash they suffered in Australia last year.

Virat Kohli was the only bright spot in that series and this time around he will have a loads of responsibilities on his shoulder.

This could also be Sachin Tendulkar's last series against Australia so he will be looking to get some runs which he failed to do so in the last few series'. It will also be a Test for opening batsman Virender Sehwag, who was dropped from the One-Day International (ODI) squad recently. H may have a new partner in either Shikhar Dhawan or Murali Vijay in the absence of Gautam Gambhir, who has been dropped for the first two matches against Australia after a string of poor performances.

Australia will be going in a radical bowling attack with four seamers. The last four-man pace attack to win a Test series in India was South Africa 2000: with a combination of Donald, Pollock, Kallis with Cronje/Klusener/Hayward and Nicky Boje in support. As Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Moises Henriques try to bear up to the load of bowling in India, they will reveal much about India's batting too. Nathan Lyon will be the only spinner targeting the Indian batsmen.

Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Matthew Wade, Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon. 12th man: Glenn Maxwell.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Murali Vijay, Ishant Sharma.


HARBHAJAN SINGH SET FOR 100TH TEST

Set to complete a century of Test appearances, veteran Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh today said he is a ‘bit nervous’ going into the first Test against Australia starting Friday. With 408 wickets from 99 Tests at an average of 32.27 and a strike-rate of 68.1, Harbhajan has been one of India's most prolific bowlers even though he has been enduring a tough phase for some time. The off-spinner will become only the 10th Indian cricketer to achieve the milestone after it was confirmed that he will be in the playing eleven for the series opener. ‘It's a big game,’ Harbhajan, who interestingly found fame after wrecking the same team in the famous 2001 series, said at the pre-match press conference. ‘(The previous) 99 are gone. Obviously a bit nervous but I am sure I will be fine. I have faced these situations before,’ the 32-year-old spinner added. Talking about the milestone, Harbhajan said the next target would be to add another 50 Tests to his CV. ‘I have gone through times when I was not doing well or when I was doing well and got too excited. These things happen. Bit nervous to start with, but I will be fine. Once I get away with 100, we will see what needs to be done to play another 50-odd. Probably I will have to work even harder,’ he said.


HARBHAJAN WOULD BE HARD TO FACE: CLARKE

Australia captain Michael Clarke today admitted that off-spinner Harbhajan Singh would be the toughest customer to face among Indian bowlers when the two teams lock horns in the first Test of the four-match series, starting Friday.Clarke also congratulated Harbhajan who is set to complete a century of Test appearances on Friday. ‘Firstly I think that is great for Harbhajan (playing in his 100th Test). On behalf of the Australian team, we congratulate him. It's a very special achievement.

He is going to be very hard to face among all the Indian bowlers but we have our plans to win this Test,’ Clarke told reporters at the pre-match post conference, adding, ‘He has been a wonderful player. He played against the best players and I am sure that this Test is not going to be different.’
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