Their level best
Australia have every chance of squaring their series with India if they continue to play hard, says Ian Harvey.
Last Updated: 19/10/10 9:24am
Ricky Ponting would love to win the second Test in Bangalore. That goes without saying.
He must have thought his first victory as captain on Indian soil was within his grasp in Mohali but it wasn't to be and all credit to VVS Laxman and his team-mates for a gripping and incredible finish.
Australia will take loads of confidence from that one-wicket defeat, however; it's never easy to beat India on their own patch and yet they came so, so close.
Losing a Test match isn't the end of the world if you have given it your best shot and fought to the end.
Ricky would be far more concerned if his team wasn't playing hard, good Test cricket. If they continue to improve as a side Test-by-Test they will go into the Ashes knowing they shouldn't fear any situation.
It was great to see Shane Watson get another ton under his belt after scoring two hundreds in the lead-up game. He got a little bit of luck early on when he was dropped second ball by Virender Sehwag but he cashed in and played exceptionally well.
It wasn't easy - he had to work really hard through the middle session on that first day when runs were hard to come by; Zaheer Khan was absolutely brilliant and India were unlucky to lose Ishant Sharma to injury, which made things much tougher.
Tim Paine's form was another big plus even if he did just miss out on his first Test hundred.
Brad Haddin, when fit, will walk back into the team, but Paine's runs will keep him on his toes and let the Australian selectors know they've got a very good replacement keeper if needed.
Competition for places has been crucial to Australian success over the years; there have been so many players performing year in, year out in Sheffield Shield cricket that the top guys have had to deliver.
England's players haven't always had the same pressure but they definitely do now; whether it's in the bowling, batting or wicketkeeping, no-one can take their place for granted and it's made them stronger as a result.
Mitchell Johnson's 47 was a key point in the first innings because it provided some much-needed impetus at a time when Australia were struggling to score and encouraged Paine to play a bit more aggressively too.
He followed up with a five-for and, like Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger, kept putting the ball in the right areas even when Virender Sehwag went on the attack with some thumping shots.
At 354-4 the chances of Australia earning any sort of first-innings lead looked very slim but they stuck to their task and got their rewards.
However unlike India's attack, all of Australia's seamers struggled for reverse swing and while that won't be such a big concern in the Ashes it does leave them with a distinct disadvantage in India just as it did in England in 2005.
I don't expect Australia to risk playing Bollinger in Bangalore unless he is 100 percent fit. While you've got to focus on each series as it happens, I'm sure the selectors would much rather he misses one game here if it means he's right for the first Test in Brisbane.
If Bollinger does miss out, Australia could bring in Steve Smith as a second spinner - a move that would definitely bolster the batting and give the selectors a good chance to look at him in Test conditions that suit slow bowling.
The big thing going against Smith at the moment is that Australia have backed Marcus North to bowl a few overs.
That's all well and good but Marcus' priority has to be getting runs. He was unlucky to get an absolute belter in the first innings from Zaheer - they are the sort of balls you seem to get when you are out of nick - but he won't want to be undercooked for the Ashes.
Nor will Nathan Hauritz, who bowled only nine overs in India's second innings. I'm sure Ricky's got a fair bit of trust in him and I was surprised he didn't bowl more.
I can only think that as Nathan isn't a massive, massive turner of the ball that Ricky felt conditions were better suited to the quicks. He's only just coming back from injury so that might have had something to do with it as well.
One thing's for sure, getting 20 wickets in Bangalore will be no easy task.