Matthew Hayden has given Australian selectors a parting serve over the decision to overlook Travis Head for the first Test in India, with the recalled batter falling just short of a day five century in the fourth and final Test of the series. Head was controversially left out of the Australian side for the first match of the Border-Gavaskar series, which India wrapped up 2-1 following a draw in the final match in Ahmedabad.
A result in the fifth Test looked to be a pipe dream, with Australia only beginning their second innings on day five and the hosts 91 runs ahead. However there were still runs to be had and Head went after them, scoring 90 before eventually being bowled by Axar Patel.
Selectors were heavily criticised for leaving Head out of the first Test, after he was Australia's most prolific run-scorer at home across two Test series against the West Indies and South Africa. He was rushed back into the side for the second Test, top-scoring in the second innings with 43 after replacing the injured David Warner as opener.
Head was actually the top scorer in all three second innings he played after being recalled, a statistic that prompted Australian Test opener Hayden to once again decry Head's omission from the first Test. The visitors were well and truly humbled in the series opener, with Hayden still perplexed as to how the team's most in-form batter could possibly be left out of the side.
“What an absurd decision not to play Travis Head in that first Test match. Missed a real trick. Coming off a great summer, a great 12 months,” Hayden said whilst on commentary for Fox Cricket.
“There’s so many people in a change room looking at stats to make decisions and fair enough, if you use the numbers well. But an in-form player like Head after his summer should have been first picked.
"I said that straight away in the first Test match. You just don’t flirt in cricket when you have great form on the board. You carry that into different series.”
Australia rue missed opportunities in India Test series
Australia's series got off to a disastrous start in the first Test, and a second innings batting collapse in the second Test of the series ultimately proved to be the visitors' undoing. In a winning position on day three, Australia lost 8-28 in just one hour, with Head stand of 43 the best effort from an Aussie batter in a golden opportunity that went begging.
Considering the Aussies went on to score a memorable victory in the third Test at Indore, it was a chance at a rare overseas series victory that went begging. Stand-in skipper Steve Smith identified the second Test meltdown as the biggest missed opportunity for the side in recent memory.
"We really hurt after that game in Delhi," Smith said. "Guys were pretty upset with the way we went away from our methods in that game, it was disappointing,
"Obviously at that point we knew there was plenty to still play for in the series and guys responded really well and as a group we are proud of the way we bounced back and play some good cricket in the last couple of Test matches."
Starting day five on Monday still trailing India by 91 runs, Australia were comfortably steered to safety by Head (90) and Marnus Labuschange (63 no) as the match was called off early with neither team capable of securing a victory. Australia declared on 2-175 with Labuschange and Steve Smith (10 no) at the crease after making 480 in their first innings when Usman Khawaja (180) and Cameron Green (114) scored memorable centuries.
But India batted even better, piling on 571 as Virat Kohli (186) broke through for his first century in more than three years and young opener Shubman Gill scored an excellent 128. Kohli was named player of the match, while star Indian allrounders Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin were rewarded for match-winning performances across the four Tests by sharing the man-of-the-series award.
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