Australia v India – Adelaide, Day 5: Pessimistic Optimism

You know it’s going to be a tough day at the office when the pre-match ramble is about how Australia are going to have to perform world-record miracles to win a test match. The more astute analysts have all but called an Indian victory by 10.30AM on day five of the match, while we blindly hopeful still rise from our slumber and nurse the butterflies that sit in our stomach. Questions burn my mind as I watch Trent Copeland analyse the diligence of India’s fast bowlers. Can Shaun Marsh continue his defiance and win it for us? Can Head recreate his first innings knock? Will Tim Paine and the bowlers support them and get Australia over the line for a famous victory? Sadly, the answers to all these questions are big juicy ‘no’s’, yet for some reason I sit in a state of disappointment yet pride when I hear ABC crow over the fall of Hazlewood’s wicket to end the match.

 

Marsh starts off the crisp Adelaide morning by nicking and nudging some runs, before pushing his way past 50 with some technically solid shots that pound off his recently neglected bat. The hope I hold sits like a caged beast in the pit of my stomach, making noise and rattling the metal yet still being held down by its restraints. The beast quietens down when Head cops a brute of a bouncer that ends his Test match – since when could an Indian pace contingent boast three bowlers who bowl over 140 clicks per hour and direct nasty bouncers better than our ‘fast bowling cartel’? That’s one titbit that I mull over while watching the first session – India’s execution of bouncers has been far more accurate and effective than that of the uber-aggressive Australian pacemen. They do say quality over quantity for a reason.

 

Just as Marsh looks set to steadily build a mountain of runs and push the underdog Aussies into a position where the beast can break free of its confines, he is undone by a swinging gem that catches his edge and gifts the exuberant Pant yet another catch for the game. No wonder the brash young keeper has been chirping like it is Christmas Day already – Sharma, Bumrah and Shami are giving him gifts whenever they desire. Suddenly India go from being a tired and frustrated outfit who have been cleverly blunted by middle order batsmen to a fearsome pack of players who appear to bowl masterfully.

 

If Marsh’s wicket was meant to signal the demise of Australia then Tim Paine and Pat Cummins didn’t get the memo on the way to the crease, as they forge a defiant fightback before the lunch break. Paine is positive and attacks as a way of defence, leading from the front and reducing the required runs total rapidly. Up the other end, Cummins is keen to show us that he can be a bowling all-rounder with his stodgy defence, despite bringing back memories of New Zealand’s bunny Chris Martin when playing all around a few overs of Ashwin off-spin. Lucky to survive a DRS decision that appeared to be signalled more in desperation, Cummins defends like he hates the blokes in the changeroom and doesn’t want to spend an afternoon listening to their banter.

 

But, as they say, all good things come to an end. This primarily relates to Paine’s proactive innings of 41 ending on an unnecessary pull shot that is skied to the spoiled Pant, while also signalling a changing of the guard that removes the glorified air that us lucky Australians had arrogantly revelled in for the best part of 30 years. The dodgy top order, the inability to capitalise on solid starts – it was like we had been reverted to the 1980s in the space of a few days. None of Ponting, Waugh, Taylor or AB would have allowed India to claw their way back into the match after being reduced to 4/40 on the opening day’s play.

 

Just as hope is being disintegrated, Starc decides that he will apply himself today, and begins to strike some sweetly timed boundaries that bring the required runs tally to double digits. His counterattack involves the crowd and encourages the Australian-dominated Channel 7 commentary team to get way ahead of themselves and discuss realms of victory. The beast has awoken from his slumber and rears its head as I stroll to the car. Yet turning on the car radio only knocks all optimism out – Starc is out and Lyon is flinging his bat around without much connection.

 

In a see-saw motion that is befitting of the day and the match, Lyon manages to get his eye in and flails India around the Adelaide Oval, making Kohli look even more angry and worried than usual. It had an air of Australia’s heavy knack of nearly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, only to fall short at the tantalising conclusion. Think Edgbaston 2005. Trent Bridge 2013.

 

But even that would’ve been better. Instead, Cummins’ defence is eventually undone after a marathon struggle of application that yearned limited runs. Effort is admirable though. Hazlewood’s arrival only spells the end, yet even he can show up our top order by knocking around some runs and allowing Lyon to flourish. Suddenly the equation is below 40 runs, and who knows what can happen from there? Hazlewood doesn’t wish to find out, ending the jig early with a nick to slip off Ashwin after applying himself satisfactorily.

 

The final margin is just over 30 runs, and it causes a weird state of confusion for yours truly. On one hand, I’m livid of our top order for not getting us off to just a slightly better start. For not going on with it and scoring big. For Finch not losing confidence and trudging off despite having been clearly not out. For Starc’s 20 runs that he leaked due to wayward bowling that couldn’t be stopped. In the end, this is what has cost us – we blinked when India didn’t. But there is also cause for optimism – our middle order and tail has a never-say-die spirit that we need in this current time. Our fielding is still mightily impressive and despite all our crap about being respectful, we have a burning desire to win that instils faith that maybe our national cricket team is still inherently Aussie. I guess we’ll find out how fair dinkum they are when they front up again in Perth on Friday.

 

Full cricinfo scorecard HERE.

 

Comments

  1. Mark Duffett says:

    Like it, Sean – writing from the gut as well as the heart. Captured the feel of it.

  2. John Butler says:

    Onya Sean.

    It was a tantalizing final day. We never really looked like winning, but there remained a chance we could.

    Good stuff.

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