A captain’s knock and wagging tail have given Australia hope of victory in a day-night Test that hangs in the balance after two eventful days at Adelaide Oval, where India are 1-9 and lead by 62 runs.
Tim Paine led from the front with an unbeaten 73 on Friday, producing arguably his most important knock since memorably helping Australia salvage a draw against Pakistan in the aftermath of the Cape Town cheating scandal.
A 32-run stand between Paine and Marnus Labuschagne (47) was embarrassingly the hosts’ highest partnership.
Aus all out 191. This is only the 6th time in their 79 Tests at Adelaide that Australia have been bowled out for under 200 in their first innings, and the first time since Jan 1992 (145, v India, a game Aus ended up winning). https://t.co/Zpkm06eAnO #AUSvIND
— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) December 18, 2020
Paine, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood rallied their side from 7-111 to 191 yet it was still Australia’s lowest first-innings total in a day-night Test.
Paine put down a diving catch, giving Mayank Agarwal a life during an eventful six-over burst after the change of innings.
Pat Cummins was entrusted with the new ball and made a mess of Prithvi Shaw’s stumps, while unbeaten nightwatchman Jasprit Bumrah faced 11 deliveries.
“Certainly not our best performance but you have to give India credit, they bowled really well and put us under pressure,” Paine said.
“We couldn’t get any momentum, get some partnerships.
“We’ve got to chase what we’ve got to chase.
“Whether that’s a big score or little score, we know it’s going to be a challenge.”
Virat Kohli will fancy his chances of setting an imposing target but India could already be in a far more dominant position, having handed reprieves to Paine, Labuschagne and Starc.
Paine was on 26, and Australia in dire trouble at 7-113, when Agarwal dropped a catch in the deep.
Labuschagne was dropped on 12 and 21, by Bumrah and Shaw respectively.
Paine brought up his half-century in 70 balls, scoring with a degree of freedom that contradicted every other innings in the match.
Why can’t India bowl out the tail-enders? is the problem with our bowlers? Captaincy? I don’t think the credit goes to the batsmen. Not these many times. Gosh I’m tired actually waiting for the final blow #AUSvIND #Australia
— Nikita Hassan (@hassan_nikita) December 18, 2020
The wicketkeeper lifted his Test batting average to 33.4 in the process, leaving Adam Gilchrist as Australia’s only stumper with a higher average.
Paine’s side started day two with a bang, needing just 22 minutes and 4.1 overs to capture four wickets and roll the tourists for 244.
Starc, who was granted an exemption from SA Health because he’d been isolating at home in Sydney’s northern suburbs prior to flying to Adelaide, cleaned up the tail to enhance his reputation as the world’s premier pink-ball bowler.
Australia’s top six batsmen failed to hammer home the advantage created by their bowlers.
Bumrah shifted momentum in an inspired opening spell, igniting a collapse of 7-95 when he trapped out-of-form batsman Joe Burns and makeshift opener Matthew Wade lbw amid a bouncer barrage.
Kohli clutched a magnificent catch to end Cameron Green’s maiden knock on 11, handing Ravichandran Ashwin a third scalp after the offspinner removed Steve Smith and Travis Head.
Umesh Yadav claimed the all-important scalp of Labuschagne early in the night session, producing a ball that kept incredibly low and trapped the batsman plumb lbw.