The Adelaide Oval has a special place for Indian fans. In 2003, Rahul Dravid’s brilliant 233 and 72* helped India win a Test in Australia for the first time in 22 years. In 2018, Cheteshwar Pujara, considered Dravid’s understudy, scored 123 and 71 as Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team overcame stiff resistance from the Australian tail to register a 31-run win in Adelaide on Monday and take a 1-0 lead in the series. This win will be considered even more historic considering that this was the first time ever that India won an opening match of a Test series in Australia. The win will be special for Kohli’s side but they had to fight every inch of the way.
Resuming on 104/4, needing a further 219 runs, Australia did not get off to a great start with Travis Head (14) being undone by a short ball from Ishant Sharma. However, Shaun Marsh, who had seven successive single-digit scores, came back to form at the right time with his 10th fifty. He was ably assisted by Tim Paine, who gave him good company. The 51-run stand steadied Australia and gave them hope of an unexpected win. However, just before the lunch interval, Marsh poked at a delivery from Jasprit Bumrah and Pant took a simple catch to end his resistance.
At the other end, Australia skipper Paine looked solid and assured but immediately after the lunch interval, he miscued a short ball and Pant took another neat catch. India now harboured hopes of running through the tail but they were denied by some bloody-minded determination from the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
First, Starc and Cummins shared a 41-run stand for the eighth wicket. Cummins was the sheet anchor while Starc chose the more attacking option. Yet again, Australia dreamt of the improbable but Mohammed Shami brought them back to reality when Starc edged the bowler for 28. With Pant taking yet another catch, he took his tally of catches to 11, breaking Wriddhiman Saha’s record and becoming only the third keeper after AB de Villiers and Jack Russell of England to achieve this feat.
If Starc proved troublesome, Lyon gave India plenty of worries. He started off aggressively with a couple of fours and kept rotating the strike. Slowly, the deficit was being reduced and tension started to mount in the Indian camp. They were given some relief when Cummins edged Bumrah to Kohli but the frustration was showing on the Indians, with the Indian skipper flinging the ball down in anger after the dismissal.
Lyon was joined by Hazlewood and the tailenders showed the top order batsmen the merits of application on this wicket. When the deficit narrowed to under 40, the tension was palpable. However, with two minutes to go for the tea interval, Ashwin got Hazlewood to edge an offbreak and India had secured a hard-fought win.