Indian cricket and Virat Kohli have special memories from Adelaide. On an absorbing fifth day of the first test against Australia, India led by Virat Kohli came close to another famous overseas Test win at Adelaide but eventually lost by 48 runs.
It was always going to be a tough nut to crack – a mammoth target of 364 on a fifth day wicket at Adelaide, while facing up to one of the fiercest pace merchants of modern times. And so the final day’s play in the 1st Test match between India vs Australia began with experts and analysts strongly suggesting an outright Aussie win. Talk of India winning the match did not even figure in the conversations of the most optimistic Indian cricket fan at the start of the day’s play. Yet, after two sessions of cricket on Day 5, the discussion amongst fans and experts was around India’s charge towards an exciting victory!
The Great Indian Fight-back
The Indian fourth innings chase was reminiscent of a test match in February earlier this year, against New Zealand in Auckland, which India lost very narrowly , chasing a target of 406. However, hopes and expectations were not high given the way India had surrendered in foreign tours during the last 3 years. And when Johnson and Lyon claimed the wickets of Dhawan and Pujara within the first hour of play, many became skeptical of India even lasting till tea time. There was a twist in the tale as Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli, came together with the score at 57/2 in the 20th over.
Initially, it was a round of consolidation in which the duo steadied the shaky Indian ship before the lunch break – cautiously steering the total past 100 without providing the Australians with any chance of bagging a wicket.
India takes charge post Lunch
It was the post lunch session that truly BELONGED to India – as Vijay and Kohli took turns in flaying the opposition bowling with sublime cover drives, back foot punches and short hand jabs. Runs kept flowing with stupendous ease as both the batsmen reached their half centuries and also brought India realistically close to the target. Aussie bowlers were taken to task as India amassed 100 runs in this session, without taking any undue risks. The home team’s misery in the face of this resilient Indian fight-back worsened when skipper Michael Clarke had to leave the scene of action owing to a hamstring injury, delegating his duties to Brad Haddin.
Nathan Lyon comes to the party
With the scoreboard reading 205/2 at the start of the final session, and an estimated 37 overs to be bowled, the scales had now tipped in India’s favour – especially with both Kohli and Vijay well settlled at the crease.
The script changed once again at this stage. Nathan Lyon has often been criticized for not being a match winner on Day 5. Today was to be his day as Lyon started bowling a nagging length to trouble Vijay who was closing in on his century. After a few unsuccessful LBW appeals , Nathan Lyon bagged the prized wickets of Vijay and followed that up with the wicket of Rahane in the same over.
While Murali Vijay’s dismissal on 99 may be termed as the effect of the nervous nineties, Rahane was unfortunate to have been adjudged caught at short leg off a Lyon delivery, while replays conclusively proved that there was daylight between the bat and the ball. This double strike, however, was just what the Aussies needed to open the floodgates as an inexperienced Indian middle order caved in under the pressure.
Rohit Sharma’s plight outside the subcontinent showed no signs of abatement as he failed to play patiently and was beaten by the wily Lyon on more than one occasion during his short stay at the crease. Rohit eventually succumbed to a turning one that sliced his glove before being brilliantly caught by David Warner at leg slip, leaving India 87 to get with 5 wickets in hand.More than the dismissal the lack of comfort and the poor temperament displayed by Rohit will worry the Indian think tank and the fans.
Captain Kohli, however, showed no signs of arresting his aggression during the mammoth run chase which now looked entirely dependent on him. The flamboyant batsman brought up his century and subsequently went past his previous best Test score of 119, giving Indians a glimmer of hope.
Wriddhiman Saha’s eventful stay at the crease was punctuated by a six and a four, followed by an ugly swipe at a viciously turning delivery which he missed altogether. Saha and India would be left wondering why he could not exercise some discretion as the better part of his valor. The scoreboard at this point read 299/6, but with India’s captain around we were still in with a chance.
Virat Kohli had batted flawlessly till then and we all hoped for one more encore by India’s “finisher” in One Day matches. A short ball by Lyon saw Virat trying to deposit the ball over square leg. A misjudgement in the pull meant that the ball landed into the hands of Mitchell Marsh at deep midwicket. The sight of the captain shell shocked at the crease, refusing to believe the error that had just got committed, will be the abiding sad memory of a courageous effort by India. A superlative innings of 141 from the debutant captain Kohli finally went in vain!
The match was almost over for the Indians, with the Ishant-Shami-Aaron tail being summarily dispensed. The last three Indian wickets fell within 11 runs, after Kolhi departed thereby handing Australia a 1-0 lead in the series. The innings had crashed from 242/2 to 315 all out – yet again underscoring India’s tendency to lay down arms in foreign conditions.
What’s next for Indian Test Team?
Inspite of India’s bravery in trying to achieve a historic fourth innings target, the fact remains that the team had been at the receiving end for the better part of the Test match. The bowling left a lot to be desired and there are question marks around a place in the test team for Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
However the task of turning the tables on Australia will need more than just chopping and changing the team combination – it will need the Indian team to display composure and aggression with both bat and ball in equal measure, especially during the key moments. They need not look further than Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli in case they need any inspiration