3rd Test, Adelaide: Another top-order collapse hurts India in an away Test
KL Rahul fell in Josh Hazlewood's opening over at Adelaide Oval. @Getty

A familiar pattern played out in the opening hour of the between India and Australia at Adelaide Oval,  with the touring team losing their top order inside 11 overs after Virat Kohli won a rare toss and opted to bat.

KL Rahul (2), Murali Vijay (11) and Kohli (3) all fell to catches behind the wicket against Australia’s excellent pace trio of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to leave India needing a miraculous recovery on the first day at Adelaide Oval.

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Rahul steered the last ball of Josh Hazlewood’s first over to third slip with an expansive drive, Vijay departed to an ill-advised waft away from the body and edged Starc to Tim Paine and Kohli was excellently taken by a leaping Usman Khawaja, one-handed, at gully when driving hard at Cummins.

A scoreline of 19/3 in 10.3 overs, with Kohli out cheaply, is reminiscent of India’s top-order problems in away tours this year.

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Starting with the tour of South Africa in January, which India lost 1-2, the top order has regularly struggled to lay foundations. In the Cape Town Test, which India lost by 72 runs, India were 16/1, 18/2 and 27/3 in the first innings and 30/1, 30/2 and 39/3 in the second. At Centurion, they were 28/1, 28/2 and 107/3 followed by 11/1, 16/2 and 26/3 as they lost by 135 runs.

In Johannesburg, where India won by 63 runs, the scoreline read 7/1, 13/2 and 97/3 and then 17/1, 51/2 and 57/3.

The England series began with defeat at Egbaston, where India’s top order again struggled as evident by scorelines of  50/1, 54/2 and 59/3 in the first innings and 19/1, 22/2, and 46/3 in the second. It got worse at Lord’s, where in damp conditions Joe Root put India in and watched as his pace bowlers reduced them to 0/1, 10/2 and 15/3 on day one. Batting again, India slipped to 0/1, 13/2 and 35/3 on their way to an innings defeat.

Murali Vijay bagged a pair in his previous Test, at Lord's.
Murali Vijay bagged a pair in his previous Test, at Lord’s. @Getty

Kohli’s team bounced back at Trent Bridge – their only win of the series – where the scoreline read 60/1, 65/2 and 82/3 followed by 60/1, 111/2 and 224/3.

At Southampton in the fourth Test, India were 37/1, 50/2 and 142/3 in their first innings but came undone in the second, slipping to 4/1, 17/2 and 22/3 to lose by 60 runs. In the dead rubber at The Oval, India were 6/1, 70/2 and 101/3 before a horror start in the final innings had them at 1/1, 2/2 and then 3/2 before hundreds to Rahul and Rishabh Pant led a recovery.

During this period across South Africa and England, the sight of Kohli walking in early was common. The earliest he walked in to bat was the fourth over (at The Oval) and the latest was during the 24th over (at Trent Bridge). Kohli batted at No 4 on all but two of these occasions, dropping one spot back in the second innings at Lord’s and The Wanderers.

On nine occasions in away Tests this year, Kohli has found himself batting inside ten overs.