Two bowling attacks that have garnered and required the attention of the entire cricketing world - the Australian pace attack and the Indian pace attack. While India showed what they were capable of on Day 2 of the Test, the Australians walked away right on the ‘pink’ side of things.
4, 9, 2, 0, 4, 0, 8, 4, 0, 4, 1 - read India’s batting scorecard after an unfortunate batting display on Day 3 of the ongoing Adelaide Test. The bowling card at the Adelaide Oval flashed - Hazlewood 5-3-8-5 and Cummins 10.2-4-21-4 - for the first time in Australian history, an opposition was bowled out in under two hours of the day's play.
“Line and Length,” suggested Harsha Bhogle as the book of Glenn McGrath, the Australian great who made a career of his impeccable machine-like bowling. That had been the Australian success, at least for the major part of the two decades which ended when the right-arm pacer called it a day.
Since then, Australia’s larger success has been going back to their bread and butter of raw pace and bodyline bowling. Mitchell Johnson swooped in on wickets with his raw pace while the likes of Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc all thrived on their hard work. But in between the transition of the McGraths to the Johnsons and the Starcs, there was a tall, lanky and a fragile-looking youngster making his debut - Josh Hazlewood.
On Day 1 of the Adelaide Test, when the hosts were put into fielding first, there were a lot of discussion over how tough it would be for the Australian pacers to make inroads in such conditions against an Indian batting unit that thrived during their last Test Down Under. While Starc got them running, the pacers were relentless and tireless in their approach only to be thwarted time and again thwarted by the duo of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
But what’s more important is how the trio have formed a partnership - well revered in not only current world cricket but also invariably in future, sealing a place for themselves in the Australian hall of fame. The partnership that began during the Ashes, one of their only successes against the Three Lions away from home - the bowling attack stood out, tested and outbowled their English counterparts.
Despite having a higher average against India, Glenn McGrath was a constant and consistent threat to the Indian batsmen in the late 90s and early 2000s, especially his ability to hit line and length, which was suggestive of his identity as a bowling machine. While he wasn’t just a bowling machine, he went on to be a bowling god for the young Australians picking up the red-cherry, with Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins - two of them.
Jump into the 2020 season, the pacers had already made a name for themselves - especially in the pink-ball format, where Australia currently sit on a seven-match winning streak. However, it hasn’t been a charismatic approach from them - bowling the bouncers and having a workaholic like Neil Wagner, who consistently threatened the throats of the batsmen but more from sticking to the basics. Bread and butter; line and length; Australian bowlers.
A family that lives together eats together but this Australian bowling pack is rather wolves, who live together and hunt together in packs, with no iota of jealousy amidst them. On a track that didn’t seemingly have too much in it, the bowlers came out and attacked in a rather characteristic fashion, after being really unlucky in the first innings. “You don't get to the highest levels of the sport without having the basics in order,” said Daniel Cormier, an American mixed martial artist and certainly Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins echoed every bit of it.
That was the plan - get the basics right in order, execute them as well as they have ever done in their history and get the Indians in a spot of bother - something where India have found themselves a lot of times away from home. The channel, the corridor of uncertainty, the fifth stump line - call it whatever pleases you, it is certainly a key channel for the Australian characteristic bowling attack and a burial ground for the Indian batsmen.
“Everything went to plan. It is good fun. We are all good mates. It is just awesome to come out and look to take 20 wickets every game. I guess you never play cricket for self accolades but it was good fun to have the 200th wicket,” uttered a smiling Hazlewood at the end of the Indian innings, suggesting how calm and prepared they were for this moment.
Average swing today: 0.58 degrees— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 19, 2020
Average seam today: 0.66 degrees
Neither of these is the highest figure for a day in this Test. There has been enough movement, but nothing extravagant. #AUSvIND
While not just that, Australia’s bowling was indicative of how well they adapted themselves to the conditions at the Adelaide Oval, especially after being shot in the foot by the Indian bowling attack, which seemed to be the blueprint on this pitch. On the pitch that served as a Christmas present to the hard-working bowlers, the duo of Hazlewood and Cummins epitomized the importance of line, length and more importantly consistency over charisma, something that was well oozed by their Indian counterparts.
48% of the deliveries Australia bowled during that innings were on a good line and length. That's the fourth-highest figure they have recorded in a Test innings since 2006 - read a stats from CricViz, which suggested how Australia went around with the ball. They forced the Indian batsmen to play the false stroke, to get them to edge one behind to the slips while not having the best support on the pitch - 0.58 degrees of average swing and 0.66 degrees of an average seam, as per CricViz which goes on to show that Australian bowlers have stayed true to their traditions - consistency before charisma.
“Ready to go from ball one makes a lot of difference, can go wrong if you take two three balls to warm up. That one boundary early on for the batsman can make a difference. The wicket quickened up definitely. So we are still learning and evolving with the pink ball,” probably sums up the bowling attack and Hazlewood in particular better than ever.