India's freebie

India can't lost because everyone thinks they can only lose. But what they learn may end up more important.

Australia picked Matthew Wade to bat at number five.  Partly because they thought they owed him one after their incredibly odd decision to open with him. But also they still believe in his toughness and experience. They believe in it so much it has now rendered his career average invisible.

And this is a must-win match for Australia; they need to win the series, they don't often lose at home. They will be completely embarrassed being defeated by the only 11 fit men India could find.  So instead of bringing back Head, or trying Usman Khawaja, they've gone for Wade again. That is what you do when you are trying to win.

India are not trying to win, sorry, obviously the players are, because that is what athletes do.

But no one expects India to win this Test, not really. They didn't expect them to draw the last one either, but since then they've lost a further 676 wickets for this match, and the batsman who helped them draw the last Test. Ravindra Jadeja's batting is gone as well, replaced by a debutant who hasn't even made a first class triple hundred.

India now has a second XI for their Test team, through injuries and pregnancy.

And that is a horrible way to take on one of the best teams in the world at the ground they never lose.

But that is where freedom comes. Australia aren't learning anything about Matthew Wade. If he had gone on today instead of playing his third sky shot of the series, he would have made it worse on the selectors. They probably know they have to move on, but would have felt conflicted if he'd made runs. It would have been a score against the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th best Indian bowlers.

Where India have nothing but upside here. Even if they lose, they can't lose.

So far Siraj has looked very good in the series, but here is a chance to see him bowling without the senior guys in his ear. We know he is inexperienced, even at the professional level. What can he bring on his own, what kind of advice can he give to the attack, and how will he go without Bumrah or Ashwin putting pressure on the other end.

Shardul Thakur bowls some tasty balls, but India didn't see that in his first Test as he only delivered ten. They didn't know what they had with him. In this Test we've seen he hurries batsmen, swings the kookaburra ball well, his best delivery is easily good enough, but he's probably bowling too many poor ones right now.  These are all good things to know for him and the coaches to work on.

T Natarajan is the Dante of Indian cricket; he is not even supposed to be here today. He is a net bowler, and he made that very clear when he kept overstepping for massive no balls.  Because of Saini's injury, it also meant he got more old ball bowling.  The later spells when he came around the wicket to the right-handers was when he really looked like a Test bowler.  But it was his wickets with the short ball that had me dreaming/joking about what he could be.

And there is Washington Sundar, who in the short term is not needed by the Indian team. But in the future, his accuracy, height and batting could all be an interesting combo if they come off in the Test level. In six years when Ashwin and Jadeja are no longer around, Sundar could be a chance of being an important Indian player. This is his work experience Test.

The same for the seamers. They get the pressure of bowling to David Warner and Steve Smith, without it being life or death. If they do well, then you have the next seamers to come into the team. With Natarajan, you have potentially a left-arm option if they need it right away.

If they get smashed everywhere, well of course they would, they have 13 wickets between them.

That is one more than Marnus Labuschagne had coming into this match.

If Australia ended today 350/0, who gives a shit. But Siraj and Thakur impressed with the new ball, Natarajan was good with the old one, and Sundar got out Steve Smith with a simple plan that he executed well.

This opportunity was a gift for India, and one their bowlers took. The fact they're still not out of the game is even better. The longer than can keep this live, the less it's like a net session, and the more they will learn about the replacements and back-ups.

They could still win, they are certainly not out of the match. Although their fielding ahs tried very hard to get them there. But Australia at home only needs one more good session to make that seem impossible.

But with everything that has happened to India, not getting beat by an innings and looking at their next wave is still a win.

India picked T Natarajan to bowl. Partly because he was left-arm seam, but mostly because they had run out of fit bodies in Australia.  But what they might find out is about his toughness while giving him some experience. Australia can't learn anything about Wade, but when Natarajan dismissed him, India did.