Freddie Wilde’s analytical notes from day one at the Adelaide Oval.
India won just one of eight tosses in their series against South Africa and England. So when they won the toss on a scorching day in Adelaide against an Australian team with no fifth bowler they had a wonderful and rare opportunity to lead the game and get this enormous series off to a strong start. The way they batted in the first half of the day threw that advantage away – profligacy that could cost them dearly.
Winning the toss was only the start but India batted as if it was half the job done. This was still day one of a series in a country where India have only ever won five Tests in 44 attempts and where Australia have only lost three of their last 30 Tests. Setting a match-defining first innings score would require discipline, concentration and skill. That all five of KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma were dismissed playing daring attacking shots betrayed a failure to bat with the patience that the situation deserved.
It would be wrong to view India’s collapse in the morning session as purely self-inflicted. The shots looked awful but they shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. In the morning session Australia were excellent and exploited helpful conditions with skill and aggression. They bowled 4% faster and swung the ball 20% more than the average for pace bowlers in Australia. CricViz’s Wicket Probability—which considers only the ball-tracking data and not shots played—expected 3.39 wickets to fall in the session—the most in the first 27 overs of a Test in Australia since the fourth innings of the first day-night Test in 2015. The four wickets fell to loose shots but they were partly induced by the excellence of Australia’s bowling.
The way Australia used swing was interesting. In the first 30 overs of innings in 2018 they’ve swung 22% of balls into the right-hander and 39% away but today in that first session they swung 27% in and 22% away. Rather than consistently shaping the ball away they looked to push the ball in just as often and used the away swinger as a tempter – three of the four morning session wickets fell to balls that swung away, drew the shot and found the edge.
PUJARA SHOWS THE WAY
It has become something of a cliche that Cheteshwar Pujara showed India the way to bat. As the most defensive player in India’s team whenever they collapse to attacking shots his restraint will be held up as an example of what they should have done. In reality Pujara is an extreme player and to expect all of India’s players to bat like him is unrealistic. Today though his approach was perfect. Against a four man attack on a scorching hot day, patience, and playing the long-game, was key. Compared to the rest of India’s top six Pujara played fewer attacking shots, left significantly more balls and played the ball significantly later. The effectiveness of this method was not only evident in his score but also his false shot percentage.
Pujara’s innings wasn’t only about patience though. Against Lyon’s spin he was typically proactive – his career record coming down the track is astonishing (625 for 2 from 772 balls) and his willingness to come down the track disrupted Lyon’s length and kept the score moving as he hauled India towards a respectable total.
The way Pujara accelerated with the tail towards the end of the day showed he can play aggressively but largely chooses not to. Either side of lunch he didn’t score a run for 55 minutes. On a day when his teammates gifted their wickets away—not for the first time—Pujara reminded them of the value of patience.
India’s top order collapse may take the headlines but it shouldn’t overshadow how good Australia were today – they barely put a foot wrong in really tough conditions. They maintained control all day—India’s run rate of 2.84 is the second lowest on day one of an Adelaide Test since 1999 & their fielding was outstanding. According to CricViz Fielding Impact, which considers the difficulty of the event and the player dismissed, Usman Khawaja’s brilliant one-handed catch to dismiss Kohli was worth +33.75 runs and Pat Cummins’ run out to dismiss Pujara was worth +31.43 runs. That’s +65 runs earned from fielding alone.
After losing the toss Australia needed to take the half chances and that’s exactly what they did. At 127 for 6 things could have been a lot worse for India but after losing the toss Australia will be delighted with their position.
WINVIZ AT STUMPS
Australia 59% | Draw 4% | India 37%
Freddie Wilde is a CricViz analyst.