Paine’s men let ball give right answers
FINALLY a ball was bowled and a host of pre- match questions received at least temporary answers on a Test day won by Australia.
A last ball run- out of India’s lone resistance Cheteshwar Pujara for a stoic 123, by a tiring Pat Cummins, was an exclamation point on a great day for the home team.
The war of words, or world of words tossed around in the lead- up never settled on a proper answer as to not only how Australia would play, but whether India could cope with it.
Would Tim Paine’s team be nice and would they play the “Australian way”? That in itself had no clear definition. It was aggressive, but not vocally, only physically. Body language and all that.
The skipper said “being nice” never came into it, even though the PR offensive post the South African scandal suggested a friendlier approach was preferable.
As the sun set on the Adelaide Oval and the scoreboard had India 9- 250 the red Kookaburra had done most of the talking anyway.
There were a few bold stares from the Aussie bowlers as well as some mutterings. Mitch Starc let slashing Indian keeper Rishabh Pant know he wasn’t long for the sheds too.
“Keep blazing away, champ,” Starc said before Pant was out for a flashy 25.
But it was the bowler’s efforts, not words, which gave renewed hope to the fans.
There was no muzzle on the home side, not even after Paine lost his third straight toss and his men were sent in to field on a scorcher.
It could have been cause groans with the mercury headed towards the high 30s, the wicket looking a bit flat and the Indian batting lineup boasting the world’s best.
Virat Kohli had, after all, three hundreds in his last four digs in Adelaide.
But Paine and coach Justin Langer had pointed to how fresh their front- line bowlers were, the same attack which looked like the linchpin of a side boasting two opening batters who share only two completed Tests between them.
Starc was the only fast bowler who went to the Unit- ed Arab Emirates in October, and he’d played in just a lone T20 since.
Josh Hazlewood, who so many pundits picked to take more wickets than anyone this series, had all but been wrapped in cotton wool since Cape Town. Pat Cummins much the same.
So they let rip and set Australia on a course back towards the sort of side they had been before the most unsettling time in the game since World Series cricket.
Their plans were near perfect, execution close to it to. The catching matched the bowling standards.
The Indian openers went quickly, with only 15 runs on the board, which brought Kohli to the crease.
He’s a man for any situation. But he’s human too, and was brought undone by a well- executed plan to get him driving and a brilliant Usman Khawaja catch.
The Indians were down by tea.
Indian number three Pujara was the only outlier. He resisted all day with his fighting century, batting as the pitch demanded. But his partners didn’t last long. six