“While that never materialized, the tenacity of the tail-enders augers well for Australia going forward in the series”
“They have a red-hot crack for every single ball. That’s what we’re building to, that’s the style of cricket we want to play.”
Tim Paine lavished praise on his lower-order men who dragged the Adelaide Test too close for Virat Kohli’s comfort while pointing out slyly that the top-order could take some lessons from the four men who made India work extra hard for their first victory in the country in 10 years.
“Our whole bowling attack, you can see how much it means to them playing for Australia, whether they’ve got the bat, ball or in the field, you can’t question their commitment,” Paine told reporters after the Test and it was a fair assessment given how they made the Indians toil, fret and even sweat in the final few hours of the Test.
Led by a 41-run partnership between Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc for the eighth wicket, Australia showed that they weren’t giving up without a fight after India reduced them to 187/7 soon after the morning session with no recognised batsmen out there. Cummins was resilient, dogged and showed the kind of application and resolve that the top-order completely lacked.
When Bumrah removed Mitchell Starc, the duo had played out more than 15 overs and taken Australia close to the target. This rubbed off Nathan Lyon who has been polishing up his batting skills and he stood rock solid for the Aussies from then on. Even after Cummins departed, Lyon and Hazlewood frustrated the Indians to the point of crowd egging on the Aussies to gun down the target.
While that never materialized, the tenacity of the tail-enders augers well for Australia going forward in the series. In the first innings as well, the Aussie bottom order had added 108 runs helping the hosts close in on the Indian total and reduce the deficit after a top-order collapse and in the second they bettered it with 135 runs. That the last four wickets contributed to 45.96% (1st innings) and 46.39% (2nd innings) should not only concern the Indians but also the Australian batsmen who haven’t been chipping in with their bits.
“I think the more they do that the more it will rub off on the rest of the group. I couldn’t question any of those guys,” Paine would hope he is right for the top-order played some forgettable shots in the first Test at Adelaide, perhaps topped by Usman Khawaja, who after a 41-ball vigil, stepped out to Ashwin and heedlessly slogged to be caught in the deep.
While Rishabh Pant’s chatter behind the stumps – “Not everyone’s a Pujara here” – generated laughter and trolls on social media, he was literally referring to some deplorable batting by the Aussie top-order whose shot selection was very questionable. In each innings at Adelaide, at least three of Australia’s top seven fell to questionable shots while the lower-order dug in and showed good application.
The defensive fields set by Kohli apparently worked in Australia’s lower-order’s favour but the fact that they scored at a better rate than the top seven wickets shows that not only were the lower-order batsmen resilient but also worked around some sharp Indian bowling to make crucial runs. “If Australia had been 4 for 50, we would have gone with our strike bowlers straightaway and could have afforded to give away a few runs,” Kohli said of his plans on day 5 but he admitted to being not “cool as ice” when Lyon and co trickled off the runs and got the odd boundary to keep the crowd busy.
The Indian captain was evidently disturbed and the several huddles India formed in the discussion was evidence of how Australian tail’s doggedness was getting to the Indians. But ideally, it should rub off on the top-order who left the majority of their job to the bowlers.
Cometh Perth, India’s relentless pace attack will pose further questions and the Aussie top-order will want to stay away from some of the horror shots they played at Adelaide. Of particular concern was how Australia’s best pair in terms of partnership – was for the seventh and eighth wickets who put on 149 runs across both innings’ for the hosts.
That only one Australian partnership – Travis Head and Pat Cummins – lasted 50 runs would worry the Aussie contingent as they head to Perth. They have a buoyed Indian attack to counter and might want to take a leaf out of the lower order’s fight.