“Australia are very much in control of the game after Day One. But one can only predict the outcome of the match once the hosts too have batted their innings out”
After being asked to field first, Australia will be delighted to have restricted India to 250 for 9 at the end of the opening day of the Adelaide Test. It was more of a case of the Indian batsmen throwing their wicket away, rather than letting Australia earn them. The openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and even Rohit Sharma played horrendous shots to get out, letting Australia get on top. At the pitch report, Brendon Julian said that there will be some movement early on, but once you spend some time at the crease it will be a batting paradise. That was the case indeed. Once the ball softened, it became much easier to bat on and Cheteshwar Pujara, who had spent most of the day at the crease showed that once he got his eye in. The Australian bowlers did trouble the Indian batsmen with the new ball, but in reality, they just pitched the ball up, outside off and let the Indian batsmen dig their own grave.
You still cannot take anything away from the Australian bowlers. They forced the mistakes from the Indian batsmen and got their reward. But it seemed to be too easy for them early on. When Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are in full flow, any batting line-up in the world will find it hard to put them away. But they too had no answer to one batsman, who decided not to fall into the temptation to play rash strokes, especially those flashy drives outside off. Pujara’s brilliant 123 – perhaps one of his best Test innings – was the highlight of India’s otherwise bleak day. Rohit Sharma got a good start. He has been in hot form in limited-overs and was looking to transform a bit of that in Tests as well. He played a couple of excellent strokes. That six over covers off Cummins was a treat to watch indeed. But then, a needless shot off Nathan Lyon brought upon his downfall.
It is not that the Australian bowlers did not bowl well, but they certainly did not bowl to their full potential. It could be because that they are a bit rusty given that it is was the first day of the series. Australian quicks continued to bowl the line outside off to force false shots after India had lost three quick wickets. It perhaps got to the other batsmen as well, but Pujara was unfazed. Vijay, Rahul and Kohli faced a total of 46 deliveries between them and Pujara left way more than that outside off, which shows he was unperturbed by the Australian bowlers’ tactics. Lyon too was not at his best. The batsmen showed positive intent against him by not letting him settle down. The batsmen were willing to use their feet against him, to good effect. But playing one shot too many eventually led to the downfall of Rohit and then Rishabh Pant.
Starc, who is known to generate more swing compared to the other two bowlers, was trying to get Pujara with in-swingers, whereas he was willing to let the other batsmen drive on the front foot by bowling away swingers. Also, after the first 20 overs, in which India had already lost three wickets, there was much less swing on offer as well, which could have proved ideal conditions for the batsmen. This also could be the reason why the likes of Rohit and later on Ravichandran Ashwin looked in total control against the pacers. There was also very little reverse swing on offer with the old Kookaburra ball, which made batting a bit more easier.
Australia are very much in control of the game after Day One. But one can only predict the outcome of the match once the hosts too have batted their innings out. In the absence of Steven Smith and David Warner, their batsmen too will be under the pump and will be up against a world class bowling attack. After watching the Indian batsmen get out the way they did, Australia will hope that their batsmen do not repeat it. India should make the best use of the new ball like Australia did and make inroads if they want to stay alive in the game.
By no stretch of imagination was it an outstanding performance from the Australian bowlers. The pace trio shared 66 wickets between them in The Ashes, which was Australia’s last assignment at home. Lyon too chipped in with 21 scalps. We still have a long series ahead of us and it would be harsh to jump into conclusions this early on. Australia will have to better their bowling efforts in the matches to come. India are too good a batting side to keep repeating their mistakes over and over. They might have gotten away with it at Adelaide, for now, but they may not get a chance to get away with it again in the series.
Cricket is at times a harsh game. Sometimes, you get smashed around the park despite bowling wicket-taking deliveries and at times, you do not bowl to your full potential and yet pick up wickets at regular intervals. It was the latter for Australia today and for their own good, they will hope to improve on it.