Australia fail to capitalize on India’s late collapse
Nathan Lyon picked up 6 for 122 but it may not ne enough to save the match for Australia. (Twitter Image)

Aaron Finch should’ve been out on a pair, but a DRS review from the Australia opener saved him as Ishant Sharma had clearly overstepped. Inching towards the tea interval, however, Finch was given out once again, but the batsman consulted his opening partner, playing in his first Test match, and decided not to review it. He hadn’t nicked the ball that had spooned up to Rishabh Pant off R Ashwin.

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Australia’s inability to capitalize on India’s drop-in intensity at various stages in this opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar series have meant they go into the fifth and final day needing 219 runs with six wickets remaining. Earlier in the day, the hosts’ bowlers had ensured Australia were not chasing a target over 350 by removing India’s last four wickets for just four runs. They would have been chasing four less had Mitchell Starc not fired one wide down the leg side for four byes.

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The hard work put in by the ever-defiant Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane towards the beginning of Day 4 had ensured that India began building their lead in earnest, both batsmen watchful against pace from one end and turn and bounce from the other from Nathan Lyon. An extended opening session was negotiated well as Pujara and Rahane added 87 for the fourth wicket, but Pujara’s dismissal for 71 opened up a brittle Indian lower order to the guile of Lyon.

Rohit Sharma was snapped up at bat-pad quite expertly by Peter Handscomb for 1, but with Rahane still in the middle, India should have been aiming at batting the full session after lunch. Instead, Rishabh Pant took Lyon for 18 runs in an over, and then perished attempting a repeat in his next for 28. There is merit in Pant’s intentions, but a measured approach is a thing to be acquired over time.

Aaron Finch survived a LBW decision after a successful review second ball.
Aaron Finch survived a LBW decision after a successful review second ball.

Pant’s wicket kickstarted a procession that was mired in panic, typified by first Ashwin’s ill-advised pull shot to hole out at deep square leg, followed by Rahane’s reverse-sweep to Lyon. Despite some bright innings this year, Rahane’s recent patchy form in Tests tends to amplify because he hasn’t scored a Test hundred since August 2017. The 48 at Johannesburg, 81 at Nottingham, 51 at Southampton, 80 at Hyderabad and now the 70 at Adelaide don’t end up with the same importance, and, more importantly, the extra runs that his team could do with.

Batting coach Sanjay Bangar also felt India’s lower order collapse has been a near-epidemic problem they have been trying to rectify. On another day, like in England on several occasions, India wouldn’t have been pressing for victory on the final day of a Test after losing their last five wickets for 25 runs.

“We were expecting 20-25 runs from the last four,” Bangar said. “It is an area where we know we have to improve. “(We) would have been in an even better position if the last four had shown a bit more application.” Those 25 runs would have taken India closer to the 350-run target they would have felt comfortable with as well.

Instead, India find themselves on the cusp of a famous victory as Australia have failed to capitalize on the chances they got today. Even after one of Lyon’s finest performances that saw him take 6 for 122, Australia’s batsmen now have to contend with Ashwin’s variations and turn, with a middle order packed with left-handers.