Border-Gavaskar Trophy – Alex Carey stumping Rohit Sharma ‘gave us control’ of Indore Test, says Andrew McDonald

Australia head coach Andrew McDonald believes the team’s success in the Indore Test shows there is a core group of players who are learning what it takes to win in the subcontinent and can set the side up for greater success in the future.

One hour of chaos” in Delhi, as McDonald termed it, cost Australia the chance of regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but having taken the opportunity to refresh and regroup during the long break before the third Test, they secured one of their finest overseas victories as they beat India at their own game on a pitch rated “poor” by the ICC.

As a result, Australia have secured their place in the World Test Championship final, during a cycle that has also included Test wins in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and they now have the chance of levelling the series in Ahmedabad.

They don’t head back to India for another Test series until 2027 and a number of a senior players are unlikely to return, but they will visit Sri Lanka in 2025 and the likes of Travis Head, Cameron Green, Marnus Labuschagne and Todd Murphy have many subcontinent tours ahead of them.

“Usman Khawaja’s performances here are probably tied back to his first experience in the subcontinent, Steve Smith as well,” McDonald said. “Everyone’s journey starts at some point in time on the subcontinent, and I think there’s a core group of players that will come back here more experienced and, in theory, better equipped for the challenges. We’re talking about a series here where we’ve had certain conditions that probably aren’t relatable to any other subcontinent tour over time, so it’s always a different challenge when you do arrive here.”

Australia keep calm after another collapse

Australia did suffer another batting collapse in Indore, losing 6 for 11 on the second day to miss the chance to build an overwhelming lead. But they retained their composure and, led by Nathan Lyon’s eight wickets, kept the pressure on India before making a target of 76 appear simpler than appeared likely.

“You have almost got to be near perfect against India in India. I think this game besides that 6 for 11 was near perfect,” McDonald said. “We had a little bit of luck. Marnus getting bowled off a no-ball, how critical was that at that point in time, [and] that allowed a partnership to flourish. We took our opportunities as well. Usman’s flying catch and then Smudge [Smith] winding back the clock with that one at leg slip. You compare that to the Delhi game where Smudge dropped one at first slip and then we dropped one at leg slip in Matthew Renshaw, and they were critical.

“We had one hour of chaos there and that cost us that Test match when we’d played pretty good cricket. We came here and doubled down on what we’d set out to achieve at the start of the tour.

“So on the back of Delhi, it was ‘how clear are we going to be in what we need to do next’. Is this team good enough? Yes. What do we need to do next? We’d lost 6 for 11, nothing we can do about that. We go out there and Nathan Lyon as the experienced spinner delivers one of his best performances. It always takes an individual to do something special to get the team back on track, no doubt about that.”

Praise for Alex Carey’s wicketkeeping

Amid the headline-grabbing performances of Lyon, Matt Kuhnemann, Khawaja and Head, McDonald picked out Alex Carey for special praise after his display of wicketkeeping on the devilish surface. He only conceded three byes for the match where some deliveries leapt while others scuttled and McDonald viewed his stumping of Rohit Sharma, the first wicket of the Test, as a vital moment.

“One part that hasn’t been spoken about enough is Alex Carey’s keeping,” he said. “I think that on day one, that ball to Sharma, that high take, that stumping, if he doesn’t execute that Sharma gets a look at the wicket, he plays differently and the game rolls in a different direction.

“I think sometimes we are quick to criticise wicketkeepers. In this instance, I thought that day one was an absolute clinic and gave us control of the game. We saw [KS] Bharat miss a couple of half-chances, or get his leg in the way of balls that could have gone to first slip. So I thought that was a key moment in the game.”

Pitches make the toss irrelevant

McDonald remained diplomatic about the pitch in Indore, saying that all the players could do was perform on whatever surface they were given, but did say conditions had been “extreme”. However, as in Pune in 2017, it likely helped narrow the gap between the teams.

“I think you can see that in the fact that all three games have been won against the toss, teams batting first have lost, and that’s rare,” he said. “It’s usually pretty hard to win against the toss but here we’ve seen three matches go that way. I think the more extreme the conditions, the less the toss is relevant.”

Before the third Test, Rohit had floated the notion of India asking for a green pitch in Ahmedabad if they had secured their place in the WTC final. Now they still require a victory to be assured of meeting Australia at The Oval, although if Sri Lanka don’t win against New Zealand in the Test that runs concurrently in Christchurch, the result won’t matter. Regardless, McDonald felt the pressure in the series has now been switched.

“I don’t think we know what we’re going to get in Ahmedabad, I don’t think anyone does,” he said with a hint of a smile. “But we’ve definitely put some pressure into that change room. Full credit to the guys. [It’s] great reward for a group that over the past couple of weeks have had their challenges.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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