In the wake of two embarrassing losses after all the pre-series talk, Australia had resorted to wholesale changes in their Test team, which was on a downfall ever since the disastrous Sri Lankan tour.
After the loss at Hobart, conceding the series to a determined South African outfit, Australian selector Rod Marsh resigned and was replaced by Greg Chappell. A new look team with six changes was named for the day-night Test which Australia won convincingly.
As the Australian team walked out at Adelaide for the first day, they had three debutants in their top six, the most changes they have made from one Test to the next in their top order since the World War II. In the last twelve Tests, not once has the same Test unit played twice, a shocking statistic for a great cricketing nation like Australia.
The wholesome changes included opener and 20-year-old, Matt Renshaw, who is Warner's third partner at the top in the series in as many Tests. For someone who played a majority of his Tests with two openers, Chris Rogers and Ed Cowan, that is a strange new feeling.
Let us take a look at the youngsters and their performances on their debuts.
#1 Matt Renshaw
The young Yorkshire-born left-handed opener plies his trade for Queensland and was not a widely known figure prior to being selected, so much so that the Australian skipper didn’t know about the youngster. Smith said, "I had to quietly ask a couple of the guys who had met Matt beforehand to make sure they pointed him out to me if he happened to walk past."
However, a keen Australian cricket fan would know Matt Renshaw. He became the youngest player to score a Sheffield Shield hundred last year, when he scored a 170 from 395 balls. In 12 first-class matches, the batsman has 1021 runs at 44.39, including three centuries.
Renshaw is a very un-Australian opener, with a strong resilience and ability to buckle down, show grit and bat long. Former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin described Renshaw as a "bat all day opener". That is exactly what Renshaw is. He can be the perfect foil for the aggressive David Warner and form a wall with his defences.
He also made a fighting 94 against a South Africa A side that included the wily Vernon Philander.
Interestingly, after all the pre-match talk, Renshaw had a different companion as he walked out to the centre. South African skipper Faf du Plessis’ sudden declaration meant that Warner, who had suffered a temporary injury, couldn't come out to open and Usman Khawaja was walking out with Renshaw.
The youngster showed great composure in negating the seam movement under lights and showed great grit as he and his partner ensured no wickets fell after South Africa's declaration on that day.
Renshaw may have taken 19 balls to get off the mark and may also have played and missed at a few, but what was important was that he did not lose his wicket and stayed put. He made just 10 from 46 balls but it was his resilience which stood out.
In the second innings, chasing a modest 127, Renshaw once again buckled down and gave good company to Warner, who went about his business in his usual manner. While critics might point out that his approach was too dogged, he ensured that the Proteas didn’t get a sniff in taking control of the match.
#2 Peter Handscomb
Handscomb had scored the most Sheffield Shield runs since last summer, notching up four hundreds and making 1147 runs at an average of 52.13. He may well have been picked for the third Test given his record in day-night games. He is the highest run-getter in such games in the Sheffield Shield, with a total of 480 runs at an average of 60.0, with two hundreds.
Handscomb has promised much in whatever opportunity he has got in the Australia A side. Recently, he made a first-class 137 against a touring South Africa A side before scoring an 87 against India A. He is known to be a good player of spin, and uses his feet to get to the pitch of the ball. He made a double hundred in the build up to the Adelaide Test and carried on his form in the Test.
Handscomb walked in to bat at 174/3 in the first innings and gave Smith company by playing Shamsi with authority and tackling the pacers ably. His first ball was a peach from Philander that beat the outside edge and in his second ball, he almost played it back to the bowler.
But since then, there was no stopping Handscomb as he showed his class by punching down the ground and cover driving with assurance. He hit three consecutive fours off Philander to reach his half-century, but was eventually cleaned up by Abbott for 54.
He hit the winning runs in the second innings but got to bat only after Australia were almost done with the chase. Given his composure and assuredness, Handscomb is sure to get a longer run in the Test line-up. He also took a wonderful catch to dismiss Faf du Plessis off Starc in the second innings.
#3 Nic Maddinson
Maddinson has already played a T20 match for Australia, against India at Rajkot in 2013, where he made a 16-ball 34. An attacking batsmen, Maddinson is just 24 now and needs to grab his chances to fight off the likes of Voges and Kurtis Patterson.
Steven Smith has big hopes for Maddinson and revealed as much while speaking about the young leftie. “On his day he can tear any attack apart," Smith said. "I think he has developed his defence over the last couple of years, from what I have seen he has been playing the ball a lot later and a lot more under his eyes."
Maddinson has hit the most Sheffield Shield sixes in the past five years. A grand total of 37. While Australia are possibly more in need of crease occupying batsmen, Maddinson might fit the bill as a counter attacking option at no.6. Although he has had a modest 2015-16 season in the Sheffield Shield, with 488 runs at an average of 30.50, he has started this season with a 116 against Western Australia.
Maddinson was the only debutant to miss out on creating an impression at Adelaide. An attacking batsman, he was forced to buckle down by some tight bowling from the Proteas seamers.
Rabada, in the middle of a fine spell, was bowling wide of off stump to Maddinson, setting him up for a yorker. The yorker finally came in the 12th ball he faced, and it was too good for Maddinson. Swinging in late and crashing the middle stump after going past his defences, the debutant had to settle for a duck on his debut. But he will know he was undone by some superb bowling.
Maddinson should get more chances in the middle order and it may come in the series against Pakistan. He will have to make that count to stay in the side.