by Kobe Jacobs
There’s plenty to ponder and potentially some soul-searching needed for Pat Cummins and the Australian Test team, following a humiliating defeat at the hands of India in the first Test in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The visitors’ batting collapse in only the third day may have signalled that the final eleven wasn’t strong enough to compete in Nagpur, given the harsh exclusion of middle-order batsman Travis Head who has been in strong form in the red-ball format.
With a second innings score of 91, it’s fair to say that the innings and 132-run defeat left many Australian cricket fans simply embarrassed.
There’s no doubt that Pat Cummins experienced the same feeling as many Australian fans once Scott Boland was given out LBW to give India their dominant win: sheer humiliation.
In fact, it was former Test captain Allan Border who reflected on the match saying on Fox Cricket that “hopefully the players are very embarrassed by that”.
But what went wrong for the Australians? The pitch was much-spoken-about leading into the match, but you can’t possibly justify that as the reason for Australia’s demise.
Although six Australians were given out LBW to spinners during the second innings, it was the tail-end partnership of Axar Patel (84) and Mohammed Shami (37) that proved there were runs in the supposedly tricky Nagpur wicket.
India’s comprehensive win fiercely overshadowed all of the hot topics leading into the much-anticipated match, with the second innings score of 91 being Australia’s second-lowest test total against India.
It was India’s bowling attack that ultimately mesmerised the Australian batsmen, as experienced off-spin bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja led the charge with the ball.
Jadeja claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings, with neat figures of 5/47 off 22 overs whilst during Australia’s batting collapse in the second innings, Ashwin managed to finish with 5/37 off only 12 overs.
The Indian bowlers were simply poised throughout the entire test.
Experienced campaigners such as Ashwin, Shami and Jadeja were the difference with the ball in terms of understanding and utilising the Indian conditions, constantly trapping the Australian batsmen in their crease.
Australian debutant Todd Murphy was more than impressive in his first stint wearing the Baggy Green and was the only highlight for the Australians, snaring 7 wickets for 124 runs during India’s first innings.
It will be an experience the Murphy family of Echuca will never forget, getting to see their 22-year-old boy claim the key wickets of KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, players with such skill and expertise.
The off-spinner was exceptional.
His ability to fire through the crease, forcing the Indian batsman to continually defend their wicket by attacking the stumps was impressive.
Murphy did more than enough to justify his selection and wouldn’t it be great to see the boy hailing out of St Kilda Cricket Club become a key member of the Test squad throughout this series in India.
Though the young Victorian was one of the only shining lights for the visitors.
Marnus Labuschagne did his best to battle through the first innings with compatriot Steve Smith, producing a gritty knock of 49 off 123 balls, but this wasn’t enough.
The Aussies’ first innings total score of 177 was easily chased down by the home side, with Indian captain Rohit Sharma producing a brilliant 120 which helped set up his team with a score of 400.
All signs indicated that a day four might have been in store for the First Test, but India’s demolition job in the second innings proved different.
As poor as the Australian performance was, the home side was magnificent with both the bat and ball inside the three days, resulting in a strong start to their Border-Gavaskar Trophy campaign.
What remains heading into the Second Test in Delhi is the selection dilemma for Pat Cummins’ side.
Pending fitness tests, can we expect Mitchell Starc, Cameron Green and Josh Hazlewood to return?
And will Travis Head make his way back into the side, with Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb probably not doing enough to keep their places.
It’s a tough position to be in currently for the Australians and the national selection panel will have their work cut out before the commencement of the Second Test starting on the 17th.
An Australian loss would see the Border-Gavaskar Trophy remain in India, having won that famous Test series Down Under in early 2021.
Australian Cricket Society’s literary scholar Kobe Jacobs is mentored by writer John Harms. His pieces are also published at www.footyalmanac.com.au .