In the first Test match of the summer some frustrating inconsistency from the Australian side saw them fall heartbreakingly short against India. The 31 run loss, when batting second, is nothing to be ashamed about – however there were a number of opportunities for Australia to win that they didn’t take.
After a dominant first innings from the Australian bowlers – with only Cheteshwar Pujara (123) putting up a fight against the Aussie quicks – India were all out for 250 even with the first ball of the second day. While they could have been out more cheaply if not for Pujara, this was still a clear advantage to Australia. The pitch also offered a bit of movement, making it important for the batsmen to get themselves in before they tried to accelerate.
Australia’s top order, however, was not up to the challenge. Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh both threw away their wickets, while Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb all got starts but couldn’t carry on. Travis Head (72) was the only batsman to stand up in this innings, although the tail added a handy 49 to narrow the gap to 15.
In the second innings India seemed to have learned their lesson, with most batsmen standing up to make at least a start. Pujara (71) and Rahane (70) led the way, with wayward bowling from Mitchell Starc also contributing heavily to the Indian score (they got 36 extras in the second innings, compared to 1 in the first). Nathan Lyon was the pick of the bowlers, taking 6 for 122, while Starc and Josh Hazelwood took an opener each and Starc cleaned up the tail.
Australia’s fourth innings showed that the batsmen were determined to get themselves in, with every single player facing at least 35 balls and surviving half an hour. Only Marsh (60) and Tim Paine (41) were able to convert, however, and neither of them played a match defining knock. This was also the first innings in test match history where all 10 partnerships made at least 15 runs.
Just as Australia started to look set, however, a wicket would fall. There was no collapse; just a gradual building of hope that was snuffed out time and time again. Even after Marsh and Paine fell, the tail managed to wag again, with Starc and Pat Cummins putting on 28 runs each while Nathan Lyon got 38, and Hazelwood added 13.
If any of Australia’s batsmen had managed to go on after their start, or if the bowlers had been as tight as they were in India’s first innings, the gritty fightback from the tail may well have carried the Aussies across the line. As it was the team, with no star batsmen without Steve Smith and David Warner, gained a lot of respect for playing hard, gritty cricket and never giving up the fight.
Lyon in particular deserves a mention, taking 8-205 in 70 overs and scoring a combined 62 not out with the bat.