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Eighty one balls.
That’s all it took for the first Test to be transformed from a tussle of the the titans into an Australian cakewalk.
What that mind-blowing session said about Australia’s bowling spell is clear — it was among the most devastating witnessed in Test cricket.
What it said about Australia’s performance as a whole, however, is far murkier.
Within that otherworldly hour — one that even the most capable wordsmith would struggle to describe — lies an uncomfortable truth for Australia: this was far from a complete display.
The fact is key components of Australia’s game failed to fire outside of those 81 freak balls from the wicket of nightwatchman Jasprit Bumrah to the end of the innings.
Luckily for the hosts, when it did work, it did so like it seldom has in the history of the game.
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AUS v IND: Day 3 highlights
Historically, Test cricket simply hasn’t worked in the way it did on Saturday.
The regularity in which Hazlewood and Cummins hit the right wicket-taking areas was astonishing, but no more so than how often they found the edge of India’s batsmen.
The Australian duo could repeat its Adelaide Oval masterclass during the Boxing Day Test and not take half the wickets it did on Saturday, when Hazlewood and Cummins combined for 9-29, and India was rolled for its lowest ever Test score, 36.
India wasn’t necessarily ill-disciplined. Captain Virat Kohli curiosuly insisted that the ball “didn’t do much” all innings and that his team’s only sin was a lack of intent.
On almost any other day, the batsmen would have played and missed far more often than they nicked off — but this was a day like no other.
Australia should still revel in the eight-wicket, comeback win, while the massacre in Adelaide may never be forgotten on these shores, or India’s.
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But the match was largely decided in one session of play. When the other eight are considered, Australia barely musters a pass mark for the first Test.
It’s easy to forget Australia was rarely in control of the match, and at one point looked on the brink of being out of the contest.
There was day one, when India was 3-188 and with Virat Kohli well on his way to a century until Australia was handed the cricketing gift of all gifts when the Indian captain was run-out by Ajinkya Rahane.
Later, Australia was 7-111 in response to India’s first innings 244, and only salvaged a score of 191 thanks to Tim Paine’s gritty 73 under lights on day two.
Day three started with India 62 runs ahead and with nine wickets in hand. How different this series could be if Australia’s quicks hadn’t bailed the batsmen out in Saturday’s all-time cricket anomaly.
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India bowled for 36!!
Australia’s gamble at the top of the order didn’t work in the first innings with Matthew Wade and Joe Burns both falling for eight. Steve Smith made one, Travis Head seven, debutant Cameron Green 11, while Marnus Labuschagne was awfully lucky to reach 47.
None ever appeared comfortable within a batting line-up that looked every bit like one that hadn’t played a Test match in almost a full year.
India, on the other hand, scored at a snail’s pace in the first innings but lost just three wickets in 76 overs before the Kohli run-out changed everything.
Now the series moves to the MCG where bowling bailouts are about as unlikely to be seen as they are at any Test venue in Australia.
The advantage in Melbourne lies with the batsmen, and Australia’s haven’t been in particularly good form.
The situation at the top of the order isn’t much clearer with neither Wade or Burns making iron clad cases to keep their spot, despite the latter’s second innings half-century. David Warner has travelled to Melbourne, however, is set to miss the Boxing Day Test, while Will Pucovski is still on the sidelines with concussion..
Green’s own Test debut was more noted for the showcase of his immaculate bowling technique rather than his batting, which delivered just 11 runs. Meanwhile, Head has three single digit scores in his past six Test innings, although it should be said he did make a century in last year’s Boxing Day Test.
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Smith has a mortgage on Australia’s No.4 but would be eager to not let two summers pass without a Test century on home soil, while Labuschagne offered an array of chances to India’s bowlers in Adelaide and will need to tighten up before Boxing Day.
Furthermore, Australia no longer has the pink ball to lend it a helping had — the nation has won all eight of its day-night Test matches — while it has only beaten a leading Test nation in the Boxing Day Test twice since 2013 (it also beat West Indies in Melbourne).
India has good recent memories in Melbourne having avoided defeat at the MCG in 2014, before winning in 2018 by 137 runs, courtesy of a first innings century from Cheteshwar Pujara and Jasprit Bumrah’s first innings 6-33.
Whether or not India can shake off the humiliation in Adelaide, or if that will have a lasting effect, will certainly still come into play. So too will the absence of Kohli who misses due to the birth of his child, and Mohammed Shami who is out with a broken arm.
Nonetheless, Australia would do well to not get carried away with its comprehensive win in Adelaide because the signs — and history — suggest victory won’t come so easy this time around.
OUCH! Shami cops nasty hit