Australia vs India 2018: Weak Australian batting on full display in first Test
The talk in cricket circles prior to the Australia-India series focused on how weak this Australian team seemed in comparison to teams in the past. However, the Indian fans and cricket watchers expressed cautious optimism given Australia's tremendous home record in general, and particularly against India.
Most analysts agreed that India's bowling unit was much more formidable this time around than in the past and that Australia's batting line-up was among the weakest in decades. How Australia's batsmen would fare against this Indian line-up was the question that most agreed would decide the winner of this series.
We are now at the end of three days of play in the first Test in Adelaide. India certainly have their noses ahead at this stage and a reasonable batting performance on the fourth day will leave the Australians fighting for survival during the remainder of the Test.
But India's fans were understandably worried at the end of the first day's play. India's top order, as has become a relatively common phenomenon in overseas tours, collapsed and the prospect of even a score around 150 seemed a difficult one. A collective sigh of frustration of a billion people reached Australia. It was deja vu all over again, it seemed.
However, a heroic effort by Cheteshwar Pujara and a scrappy but useful contribution by the lower middle order helped India crawl to a tentative score of 250. The Aussies were effusive in self-praise and salivating at the prospect of man-handling the Indian bowlers the following day. The size of the first innings lead was discussed with some fervor. Dismay, self-doubt, and past demons began to germinate in Indian minds.
The bowlers took on the Aussie batting line-up the next morning. All the Australian confidence and prognostications of a big lead began to melt like ice on fire. In one of the finest performances by an Indian bowling unit in recent memory in Australia, collectively, Bumrah, Ashwin, Ishant, and Shami wiped the grin off the Aussies' faces. By the end of their innings, Australia were 15 runs short of India's first innings total.
While India's bowlers deserved credit for being disciplined, penetrative, crafty and creative, the Australian batting failed as feared. It would have been inconceivable, in the past, for an Indian team to post a 250 run first innings score on a flat Australian pitch and expect to get away with it. In fact, in India's last tour to Australia, despite posting 300+ in Adelaide, the Men in Blue went on to lose the Test match.
It's clear now that Australia missed a trick by failing to get a lead of 50-75 runs. As a result, the confidence of the Indian batting line-up has risen and they are well on their way to posting a net total of between 250 to 300 runs.
One can feel the Indian bowling quartet already waiting just behind the boundary ropes raring to have a second go at the Aussies. They'll get that chance sometime on the fourth day. At that point, the Australians will be looking not at their batsmen to save them but rather for the rain gods to come to their rescue.