Kolkata: In India’s 88 years’ history in Test cricket - which has often seen humiliating losses on overseas tours - the dismissal of Ajit Wadekar’s team for 42 all out on a damp day at the Lord’s in 1974 was considered to be their lowest point so far. None really had an inkling that Virat Kohli’s men, who had recorded a historic series win only in their last tour Down Under in 2018-19, would plummet to a new low there when they were shot out for 36 in their second innings at Adelaide on Saturday.
The Seventies were eons ago - when the wickets still stayed uncovered overnight - and the wily duo of Chris Old and Geoff Arnold ran through the Indian batting order comprising of some big names with their prodigious swing and seam movement on a green wicket. The story of India’s catastrophic second innings, after sharing the honours for the first two days, were much different this time on a bright noon at the Adelaide.
If Pat Cummins (10.2-4-21-4) started the slide with a soft dismissal of night-watchman Jasprit Bumrah and induced a nick off Cheteshwar Pujara to reduce India to 15 for three, Josh Hazlewood (5-3-8-5) showed why Australia regard him to be a valuable asset as he mopped up the lower half of the batting order. If the Australians were pilloried in some quarters for being ‘un-Australian’ during batting when he they fell for 191 on the second day, the trio of Australian speed merchants - led by senior partner Mitchell Starc - lured the Indian batsmen to their doom with sustained hostility to finish their innings in 21.2 overs.
It was the quality of fast bowling which historically makes Australia such a tough opposition at their backyard - mostly hitting back of a length on the off-stump line and leaving the batsmen at a height which a technically compact batsmen like Pujara - India’s hero of the last tour - or Ajinkya Rahane were forced to jab at only to be caught behind. Kohli went somewhat differently, shaping for his favourite cover drive against Cummins and Cameroon Green bringing off a stunning catch to see the back of the Indian captain.
“Everything went to plan, I think the way Patty started was unbelievable to knock over the two big wickets and I just followed suit,” said Hazlewood, who was on a hat-trick at one stage in his devastating spell.
None of the Indian batsmen, including captain Kohli, managed to get into double figures as wickets fell at regular intervals throughout the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Shami’s injury which came when a short ball from Cummins hit him on the forearm, was a double blow for the tourists as the paceman was unable to bowl in Australia’s second innings.
India will be sweating on Shami’s fitness for the second Test in Melbourne, which begins on the Boxing Day, but it will be only one of the several factors they will be worrying about. Kohli will be gone after this Test to be with his wife Anushka Sharma as the couple are expecting their first child - and it will leave a gaping hole in their batting line-up.
The experienced Rohit Sharma may have reached Australia, but he is unlikely to figure in the playing XI after coming out of a hard quarantine for 14 days and the team management to take a call if he can take the rigours of a Test match. They are most likely to bring in KL Rahul in number four in place of Kohli while Shubhman Gill may replace the out-of-form Prithvi Shaw as an opener. It will not be easy for two new batsmen to come in and handle the pressure at the cavernous MCG with the team 1-0 down in the series.
More so, now that Tim Paine’s men have set the tone for the series. For the record, this was Australia’s eighth win in as many day-night Test matches.
10 lowest scores in a single innings in Tests
26 - New Zealand vs England at Auckland, March 1955
30 - South Africa vs England at Port Elizabeth, Feb 1896
30 - South Africa vs England at Birmingham, June 1924
35 - South Africa vs England at Cape Town, April 1899
36 - South Africa vs Australia at Melbourne, Feb. 1932
36 - Australia vs England at Birmingham, May 1902
36 - India vs Australia at Adelaide, Dec. 2020
38 - Ireland vs England at Lord’s, July 2019
42 - New Zealand vs Australia in Wellington, March 1946
42 - Australia vs England in Sydney, Feb. 1888