A couple of brilliant knocks were all it took to take a little bit of sheen off what turned out to be another successful day at the office this season for the Indian cricket team.
The opening day of the first Test against Australia, against whom they play a total of four matches, saw the Indians dominate with the ball for the most part, before Mitchell Starc wreaked havoc — with the bat for a change — to keep his team's innings alive till the very end of the day's play.
Before Starc went hammer and tongs against an attack that has decimated teams such as New Zealand, England and Bangladesh in the last six months, it was young opener Matt Renshaw who held the Australian innings together with a special display in his maiden outing on Indian soil. Had it not been for these two batsmen, the visitors probably would have been bundled out for a little over 100.
Renshaw forged a solid opening stand with David Warner after visiting captain Steve Smith opted to bat. The two went about business with a certain sense of steadfastness, maintaining a defensive approach for the first part while punishing the bad deliveries whenever they were offered a serving.
There were quite a few instances of indiscipline on the part of the Indian bowlers, with the number of no-balls bowled including one by Jayant Yadav that earned Warner a reprieve on 20. A total of nine no-balls were bowled in the innings, which signals the need for discipline keeping the remainder of the series in mind.
Umesh Yadav was the undisputed star of the day after recording bowling figures of 4/32, including the crucial wicket of Warner that broke the opening stand. For all the talk of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja dominating right from the outset of the match on a pitch as dry as this, it was Umesh's testing lines as well as movement of the ball that helped the hosts restrict the visitors.
Starc's innings, in which he blazed away to his ninth Test half-century with the help of five fours and three sixes would have instilled some confidence into the visitors after the hammering that they got earlier in the innings. The one advice that Starc probably would have got back in the hotel room would be to maintain his attacking approach on the second day as well, with Josh Hazlewood being told to stay away from the strike for as long as possible.
Should Starc be able to add another 30-40 runs on Day 2, and get Australia as close to, or even past the 300-run mark, it would certainly prove to be a morale booster. Let's not forget, the likes of Shane Warne had earlier talked of 250 being a decent total on this pitch, which is set to crack open even further on the second day. Additionally, getting close to 300 would make it easier for the Starc-led Australian attack to exert pressure on the Indian batsmen. Early wickets, especially that of their 'nemesis' -Virat Kohli will be the next big target for the tourists.
We've just gone past day one of the four-Test series that is to go on till the end of March. There is a plenty of action yet to come, and it will be interesting to see who emerges on top on Day 2.