New Series, Old Mistakes: India’s Top-order Collapses at Adelaide
Playing seven batsmen, Virat Kohli made the decision to bat first after winning the toss on the first day of the first test in Adelaide.
One session in and India were probably rueing the fact that they couldn’t have had more reinforcements in the batting line-up. At 56/4, they had virtually thrown the advantage of the toss – a decisive one when you consider India under Kohli haven't lost when winning the toss – down the drain and pathetic shot selections and poor application had already left Indian fans seething in anger.
Virat Caught On 3
This was meant to be different from South Africa and England. Experts and analysts had written poetries on how India's batting was way better than Australia's sans Steven Smith and David Warner. Virat Kohli's pre-series net sessions saw the ball travel off the meat of the bat, making a sound so impressive that Beethoven might well have composed music out of it.
Yet, here the Indian skipper lunged forward against Pat Cummins, hung his bat out to dry and the edge was snapped up by Usman Khawaja at gully. It felt like a final nail in India's coffin in the morning session that Australia completely owned. Kohli's weaknesses against the balls outside his off-stump is well known. However, those seemed to have been ironed out this year when he played around with the England and Proteas bowlers for fun.
There was no sign of weakness, let alone a chink in his armour. Yet, after the dismissal on Thursday, one couldn't help but feel if somewhere in between the big runs he made in England, there as a pinch of luck. During the third Test in England, there was a period when James Anderson drew 53 false shots out of Kohli without dismissing him according to ESPNcricinfo. In the dreadful tour he had in England, Kohli played just 54 false shots but was dismissed 10 times. Lucky? Perhaps.
No such luck favoured him at Adelaide when an evidently lighter Usman Khawaja hung on to a sensational catch to send the India skipper back. Pat Cummins, in four balls, at Kohli across two series’ had dismissed him twice. Does that hold value for the remainder of the series? Maybe not, but it is a possibility that is too early to rule out.
Rahul Wastes a Chance
If Kohli was deplorable, the rest of the top order was no better. KL Rahul started the procession when his clumsy hands couldn't resist a wide bait thrown by Josh Hazlewood. The Australian seamer had bowled the first five balls in the over angling into the right hander but pushed the sixth one wide and prompted Rahul to drive, an invitation he obliged to without hesitantly. The edge was drawn and Australia had not only drawn first blood but won a mental battle too early in the game.
"He (Rahul) has been looking in good shape. It is just that he is finding new ways to get out. Even today, the ball was quite afar when he played it away from his body and lost his wicket. But what we are reading he is playing the ball well and he is one hit away (from form)," Sanjay Bangar, the batting coach, had commented after the warm-up game against Cricket Australia XI. After that shot on day one of over two in the first Test, his analysis cannot be argued against.
Vijay Edged One on 11
It was Murali Vijay's turn next. In the warm-up game against Cricket Australia XI, Vijay had invoked memories of his former self with some authoritative shots and incredible timing. It seemed the county season had done wonders to Vijay, yet the sore thumb that hurt him in India when the Aussies toured in 2016/17 stood out yet again. Then, he had edged behind to the keeper off fast bowlers thrice, which is all of the times he had been dismissed by seamers in that series, a home series!
Here, he promptly edged Mitchell Starc behind after teasing to fire in his first 21 balls where his judgement outside the off-stump and defence was right on the money. It was a familiar woe, one that hadn't been ironed out in a deplorable year for the Tamil Nadu opener.
Rahane Reaches Outside Off-stump
The opening partnership had been a major issue for India this year but even more worrying was what they would do with Kohli back in the hut. Pujara stood tall amidst the ruins but Australia knew which end to attack. Rahane was given spin first up. The middle-order batsman has had his issues against spin and Lyon, a bowler who has had good success against Rahane, probed him with sharp turn into him and subtle variations in pace. The short leg came into play several times as Rahane inside edged Lyon twice either side of stepping out and tonking him for six.
The end, though, came in disappointing fashion as Hazlewood lured him with a wide one and Rahane, like Rahul, went fishing outside the off-stump. Once again the Australian catching was top-notch and it left India hobbling before the lunch break at 56/4.
Rohit Out on 37
Pujara went into a familiar shell, playing out 29 dot balls on the trot before the 20th and 34th over while Rohit Sharma delighted with some pristine shots, a couple of them off Cummins - a pull and a lofted inside out drive - going all the way. When Nathan Lyon teased Rohit, he slog swept the spinner over mid-wicket and it seemed like Pujara had found some much-needed company. Yet, Rohit has thrown away a lot of his starts - 17 of them in his short Test career going over 10 but ending before a half-century.
When Lyon stuck to the same channels, Rohit went after him with another ugly slog sweep - a ball after the six - and top-edged down the throat of the fielder. It was plain horrendous to watch but a dismissal that just about underlined the performance of the much acclaimed India's top order.
If this innings is any indication of how India’s top-order plans to play this series, the Border - Gavaskar Trophy isn't coming home. Poor intent, ridiculous shot selection and some deplorable shots grabbed attention as day one of India's adventure Down Under went downhill.