Sports Ticket: A worst day for India Cricket Team; Lowest Total in Test Match
Virat Kohli’s last act on the field of the 2020 tour of Australia was to throw his right hand up in the air and shake his head in despair. The Indian captain had just witnessed Hanuma Vihari put in a valiant effort at fine-leg before letting the ball slip through his fingers and over the ropes. It meant Joe Burns had reached a half-century. It meant Australia had posted a comprehensive win over the Indians in the opening Test. It meant India’s nightmare was over.
Even as the rest of his teammates began ambling to the centre of the pitch to congratulate the two Aussie batsmen, Kohli stood where he was at second slip for a few seconds longer. He continued to stare towards the fine-leg region even if his eyes by then were gazing into the distance. He then joined the customary post-match fist-bump ritual as the players began walking off. A few steps into it, Kohli’s attention was diverted by the big screen at the River End. He now stopped to see a replay of the Vihari drop and resumed shaking his head, which was now turned towards the floor. It actually took Ajinkya Rahane to guide him towards the Australian dug-out to acknowledge the rest of the home team’s contingent.
It was a bizarre day where captain Kohli had looked lost and in utter disbelief for large parts. It was one which Indian cricket will shake its head at for years to come, maybe forever. It’s one that the rest of the world will not let India forget in a hurry.
What transpired on Saturday (December 19), was a performance that will certainly go into Indian cricket’s wall of shame. Still, eventually there seemed to be more victims than villains in their shambolic surrender.
They had after all succumbed to what will retrospectively be regarded as, and deservedly so, one of the best spells of seam bowling ever seen in the history of the sport. It might sound a tad hyperbolic, considering the carnage lasted all of 92 balls in the first session. But you just need to break down how good and devastating Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were on Saturday to know why. They were certainly among the greatest collection and sequence of wicket-taking balls ever bowled within such a short time-frame, in just over an hour’s play.
How often have we heard about bowlers being in the midst of dream spells, where they are bowling the perfect lengths and getting the ball to talk. Hazlewood and Cummins certainly were doing that from the get-go on Saturday. But what makes their performance even greater is the fact that there were hardly any plays and misses. There were only edges and catches.
Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were both beaten once during their respective brief stays at the crease. There was also the streaky boundary for the captain past gully the ball before he was dismissed. Apart from those, Hazlewood and Cummins were either letting the Indian batsmen not offer a shot or getting them to edge behind the wicket. They were also relentless. And the Indian batsmen reacted to this inquisition like they hadn’t just been asked to sit an examination they weren’t prepared for but one that seemed to be outside their league or even comprehension. Such was the abject nature of their collective submission.
The Adelaide Oval pitch was the quickest it had been during the Test match. And Cummins and Hazlewood are a pairing that will be spoken about someday as being in the same rarefied air as Wasim and Waqar, Ambrose and Walsh, Lillee and Thomson to name a few. It was a cauldron that the Indian batsmen were walking into on Saturday. Kohli would later talk about how his team could have perhaps shown more intent. He for one did try launching a counterattack, which failed almost immediately. But you wonder what the Indians could actually have done differently to what they did to avoid the embarrassment of posting the lowest score in their Test history, and the lowest for any team since the 1950s.
This wasn’t the first or the last collapse we’ll witness in a Test match. Generally, you’d expect at least one batsman to get away and stem the rot, even if only briefly. This was one of those rare occasions though where even that wasn’t to be. Except an inside-edge from Wriddhiman Saha that flew past his leg-stump, none of the Indians seemed to have any amount of fortune on their side either on this rather historic afternoon. Whether it was Pujara or Agarwal or Rahane or Vihari, it wasn’t that they went poking at deliveries that they could have otherwise avoided. They all happened to receive balls that they simply had to play at and get out to.
For these total knockouts are so rare in cricket, you as a viewer kept expecting the conveyor belt of wickets to halt at some point and for at least one solitary partnership to emerge. You could make out that’s what the Indian dressing-room were expecting to happen too. It simply wasn’t to be though.
In some ways, it felt like watching a TV show where you get the plot, maybe even understand it, but still can’t simply get your head around how or why it’s unfolding the way it is. And it was done literally before you could even press pause to re-read the synopsis.
That Jasprit Bumrah was right on top in terms of batsmen who middled the ball most often in India’s second innings should tell you just how frightening the events of December 19, 2020 were and how they will be remembered. And it was the night-watchman’s departure that set off the daylight heist.
It might be difficult to fathom now after the 36 all out outcome that India actually were in a rather strong position at the start of Day 3. Their huddle before play was a long one with Kohli spending nearly 5 minutes to egg his team on. The third day was expected to be a “batting day” with the opening Test of the series poised to be a potential classic. Then it all went horribly wrong.
In the end, the game hadn’t simply slipped out of India’s fingers. It was more a case of them dropping the ball or more Australia very rudely snatching it from them and kicking them to the floor while at it. And all a shell-shocked Kohli & Co. could do was shake their head in despair and disbelief.
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