With R Ashwin bowling a long, incisive spell on day two in the first Test at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, the Australian batsmen found themselves tied up, struggling to score runs freely.
At stumps, Australia were 191/7 in 88 overs, with Ashwin leading India’s attritional charge, securing figures of 3/50 in 33 overs. He was aided well by the pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah (2/34) and Ishant Sharma (2/31).
Mitchell Starc (8 not out) was giving Head company at close of play with Australia trailing by 59 runs against India’s first innings effort of 250 all out.
Post tea, the hosts lost two wickets for 10 runs in a passage of play spanning eight overs.
It was credit to Indian bowling that it kept the runs in check and regular inroads into the Australian line-up meant that they were never really out of pressure.
The big moment came in the 40th over, when Ashwin got Khawaja’s wicket. The left-hander had been tied down and was content eating up deliveries. However, he pushed one forward against Ashwin and gloved it to keeper Rishabh Pant. India appealed, and then opted for DRS review with hotspot showing a faint tickle on Khawaja’s glove as Australia were suddenly reduced to 87/4.
Head then joined Handscomb and defied the Indian bowling, which didn’t allow any easy runs but also couldn’t find another breakthrough before the tea break. Handscomb struck five boundaries, while Head hit a four as well, as the duo put on 30 runs for the fifth wicket, taking Australia past 100 in the 48th over.
But for the most part of the day, run-scoring proved difficult for Australia. The rate never exceeded 3.0 in any of the sessions.
Sachin Tendulkar expressed his surprise at an unprecedented sedate approach from Australia in their own backyard.
Australia’s batting approach was questioned elsewhere as well. Ricky Ponting, while questioning the logic of opening with Aaron Finch given his troubles against the moving red ball, said the state of Australia’s batting talent is one of concern.
“I’m not here to bag anyone about the way things are happening, but you look at some of the shot selection today and it makes you wonder a little bit,” he is quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“I had no worries at all about the group coming in in terms of form and those sort of things, it just highlights that they might be a fair way off the mark. It’s pretty hard to accept that we have 10-15 batsmen in Australian first-class cricket and only a couple of them average over 40. That’s unacceptable as far I’m concerned. So you’ve got to look at the levels of coaching on the way up and what’s not happening and try and find ways to improve it,” Ponting added.
With head puns, Australia’s batting came under the scanner on Twitter.
Not everyone thought it was a bad thing that Australia chose to grind it out against the disciplined Indian bowling attack.