Just when it looked like India are in a commanding position in the Test match with a set Kohli and Rahane at the crease, vice-captain's poor call turned the tide in favour of the hosts. Australia's discipline was remarkable but India also showed good application sporadically with the bat.
Consistency before Charisma - Australia's way to success
Grass on the pitch, brand new pink cherry, first 25 overs, first two hours of play, an expectation of exaggerated movement. But for Australia, who had to bowl first against their will, the ball came out swinging 0.5 degrees on an average as opposed to the average swing for the new pink ball which is 0.93 degrees, as per Cricviz. But still, at the end of the first session, India were 41 for 2, the lowest runs during the opening session of a Test in Australia since 2006. That's the prowess of this Australia bowling attack, who endlessly bowled at the same spot every single over.
Australia bowlers set the tone for the game and embodied that its consistency over charisma, discipline over daredevilry, and the spirit of patience over temptations of short-term reward that helps you win the long race. After Prithvi Shaw literally put no fight and played terribly to a Starc in-swinger, things only turned onerous as Mayank and Pujara, with tight technique and solid temperament, didn't give an inch and looked set for a big haul at the crease.
But Australia kept hitting the top of off, testing the batsmen on fourth-fifth stump line. To not allow the batsmen to come forward and in line of the ball, they employed odd bouncers to keep Indians on their toes. There were hardly freebies or urge to go for magic deliveries. After setting the batsmen up, Cummins finally bowled a jaffa of a nip-backer to have Agarwal dismissed after he was looking to finally translate his patience into runs. No wonder the first session was Australia's with India failing to score much and leaving a lot to do in twilight or afterwards, which will be more testing period of play but more importantly, it points out how the Australian pacers have really cracked the code of consistency.
Top-notch application by Indian batsmen
In the last Test series against New Zealand, one of the things that put Indians into acute trouble was how diffident they were and made too much out of conditions. But, today, Indian batting was far more focused on the controllables than the pitch, the pink-ball, the opposition bowlers, correcting the wrongs of the last tour. Barring Prithvi Shaw, who has looked at the sea for a long time now, all else showed great application and solidity in technique.
It reflected in India's lower false shot percentage in this innings (13%) which was below than what usually is in Australia (15%), as per CricViz. After the Shaw setback, both Agarwal and Pujara put their foot down and displayed solid batting despite the ball doing a bit for the pacers. They were both ready to commit their front foot to the line of the ball and lunge forward despite getting peppered by short balls in between and leave the balls, which needed no intervention.
And so was the case with Pujara as well, who was again back in his element and batted as if meditating in the middle amid the chaos of the hyped Test and the pink-ball. For the seventh time, Cheteshwar Pujara faced 100+ balls in an innings in Australia and made 43 off 160. Indian skipper Virat Kohli also exhibited his class albeit in the discipline with which he batted than the elegant strokeplay. Unlike the last time when he got out driving to Cummins, Virat left the balls on the fourth-fifth stump channel like Pujara and Agarwal and was even troubled numerous times by the searing short deliveries. Indian batsmen have laid a great platform and if they score 290-300 in first innings, it can set-up up the game for Kohli's India. Having said that, India's approach in the second session after the ball had snuffed out was rather poor, with a run-rate that wouldn't have taken them to 260 at the end of the day, a broken promise despite Australia having bowled out of their skins.
Virat Kohli certainly shows what India will miss
Virat Kohli had his fair share of luck. But as they say, you never get lucky in life but achieve success if the preparation is good enough to make most of the luck and opportunities one gets. And this was something Virat Kohli had talked about recently in his conversation with Steven Smith when he stated that there is a certain mental state when things start falling in place for you, like dropped chances and nothing can stop him from scoring runs.
Averaging 9.50 against New Zealand in the last Test series India played, Virat Kohli had his second-worst series of the entire Test career. Now, in the Australia Tests, as well, Adelaide is the only Test that he will feature for the side. The pressure was immense when he walked out at 32 for 2 like India often are in SENA nations. It required the Indian skipper to stand up for the team and rescue the side for Nth time in his career.
But Virat Kohli came out batting scratchily in the beginning but after some chances went his way, he readjusted his game and how. Kohli was in his trance zone, at least, by the looks of it. Nothing could faze him. Australia kept bowling on the fifth stump line, he kept leaving the ball. Starc tried bouncers and one even hit his finger badly but later in the innings, when he pulled the left-armer, it showed how much time he had on the wicket. Lyon was turning the ball well, but this was peak Kohli against spin too as he kept milking the offie. If not for Rahane's terrible call, this inning had the inkling of a big knock but it was a good one as he made 74, and continued his dominance at this venue, which he has made his own - with another 50+ score.