Former coach Darren Lehmann has pinpointed Mitchell Starc’s spell late on day one as crucial to Australia fluffing their chance to condemn India to a small total.
India will resume at 9-250 at Adelaide Oval on Friday, having crashed to 3-19 when they lost Virat Kohli then 6-127 before Cheteshwar Pujara rallied with help from the tail.
Thursday’s play finished with Pujara run out for 123 by a superb direct hit from a diving Pat Cummins, who had one stump to aim at after toiling for 19 overs as temperatures hit 38 degrees.
Even with that wicket the dominant start was soured a little, though Starc and captain Tim Paine both said the stumps score was a net positive after Kohli won the toss.
“It was a special moment for (Cummins), especially after a long day in the field,” Starc told reporters before conceding the loose spell was a problem.
“It was a good little effort. We bowled really well for four hours, pretty well for another hour then got it a bit wrong at the end.
“If you asked us at the start of the day if we’d take losing the toss then them being 9-250 at stumps, I think we’d bite your arm off.”
India were 7-189 when Cummins removed Ravi Ashwin just after drinks in the final session but were allowed to add bonus runs before and after the new Kookaburra was taken.
At stumps Lehmann admonished Starc, who was partly responsible for Australia’s wasted opportunity.
He sent the first three balls of the 81st over down the leg slide, though a correction on the fourth allowed him to trap Ishant Sharma lbw before a review overturned the on-field call.
Starc dismissed his Indian counterpart two overs later and sent a muted and perhaps frustrated stare down the pitch.
The left-arm paceman and teammate Josh Hazlewood both conceded double-digit overs to Pujara before Cummins ended the pain with that run out.
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“The second new ball, I thought Mitchell Starc could’ve knocked them over for under 200, really, if he got that right,” Lehmann told Fox Sports.
“He dragged it down leg side a bit with the new ball but that can happen in the game (on) a hot day, 38 degrees. That would’ve been one (area it went wrong) – at the end they let it get away a little bit.”
Australia won’t be able to claim the upper hand until their inexperienced batting order is tested on Friday.
“You can’t judge a wicket until both teams have had a crack,” Starc said.
“One good day isn’t going to win a series. It’s going to go a long way to helping win a Test but it’s nothing to win a series.”
Pujara, having halted the home side’s momentum with his first century in Australia, argued India already had a decent total.
“It’s not an easy wicket to bat on … the odd ball is skidding on and the odd ball is holding a bit more,” he said.
Tim Paine will lament the way his side failed to keep their foot on the tourists’ throat.
But after eight months of soul-searching and scathing criticism, there was lot for the captain and Australia’s disillusioned fans to like as they finally started their first home Test since the Cape Town cheating scandal.
The day, the national team’s first on free-to-air TV this season, was bookended with two pieces of brilliant fielding.
Usman Khawaja, stationed at gully and playing two days after his brother was arrested, led the way as Australia dominated the opening hour.
Khawaja removed Kohli, flinging himself to the left to complete a dramatic dismissal after Starc and Josh Hazlewood both picked up a wicket in their opening spell.
Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay were all out edging in the morning session to Australia’s fast bowlers, who bent their backs in sapping heat to extract rearing bounce and generate good pace.
Rohit Sharma’s post-lunch dismissal to Nathan Lyon on 37 was the low point of India’s ill-disciplined innings, while Lyon also ended an entertaining cameo from Rishabh Pant.