Day 5 of the Adelaide Test proved to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller and a persistent India pushed past their woes against tail-enders to draw first blood in the four-match Test series. Chasing 323 for victory in the final innings, Australia's strength in the lower order came to the fore yet again as Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood put up crucial runs to get them close to the target on the final day. Just as it seemed the Australians would get it down to single figures courtesy a brilliant last-wicket stand, Ashwin broke through to help India to a 31-run win.
Here are our player ratings from the Adelaide Test:
India's ever-reliable No 3 set the game up with a crackerjack century on Day 1 when India were staring down the barrel after a top-order collapse. Pujara was dogged, relentless and unmoved in his innings and took India to a total they could only dream of after a poor start. In the second essay, Pujara was once again the fulcrum around whom the Indian batsmen milked runs and his form and assured approach even rubbed off on Ajinkya Rahane, who rediscovered his lost touch.
Lyon was brilliant for the hosts, mixing his pace and lengths and was the best Aussie bowler on show. Steady and reliable in the first innings, with the ball turning a mile in the second, Lyon took the mantle of leader of the attack and did his part in keeping the target within sights. He picked up six Indian wickets, including the big middle-order scalps of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. With the bat, he put up a brave show in the second essay, nearly taking Australia over the line with an unbeaten 38.
Ridiculing criticism thrown at him for his strike rate in the country, Ishant Sharma cleaned up Aaron Finch off the third ball of the first innings to peg Australia back instantly. He was onto the Aussie opener in the second essay too, and nearly had him. His menacing angle against left-hand batsmen and brilliant lengths proved to be really handy for the Indians. Ishant showed he was no one-trick pony when he had Travis Head hopping and edging on Day 5 as Australia slid further.
Bumrah's pace was right at the top from the word go. In his first ball of his fourth over, Bumrah sent down a 153.2 kmph delivery, but his first spell was all over the place and he leaked over four runs an over. Since then, though, Bumrah made a terrific transformation and his remaining 19 overs leaked just 23 runs and yielded three wickets. The stringent lines carried over into the second innings as well where he was India's most restrictive bowler. He got the big wicket of Shaun Marsh with reverse swing to put India in the driver's seat before lunch on Day 5, and sent back the resilient Tim Paine soon after the break. He further added the wicket of a combative Cummins to finish with his second three-wicket haul in the Test.
Ashwin bowled nearly 53 overs in the second innings, tirelessly attacking the batsmen by landing it on the rough and turning it square. He was the pick of India's bowlers in the first innings, taking three out of Australia's top four wickets and constantly appearing threatening. He cleverly used the rough more in the second essay and broke through for India with the final wicket of Hazlewood to win the game for the visitors. The off-spinner has all but sealed his status as India’s No 1 spinner after this brilliant Test match.
After a pretty loose shot in the first innings where he went driving off Ashwin and chopped on, Marsh found his touch on the second and proved to be Australia's biggest hope going into Day 5. He was confident in defence and did a wonderful job of keeping the Indian bowlers at bay early on the final day. Just as it seemed Marsh would lead Australia to lunch, Bumrah came around the wicket and found the edge that derailed Australia's attempts at getting closer to the target.
After a disappointing shot in the first innings, the onus was on Rahane to justify his selection and help India to an authoritative lead after Kohli was dismissed. Rahane appeared steady early on before the confidence of Pujara rubbed off on him. The middle-order batsman grew in confidence and played some sublime strokes, particularly off Cummins, and was very impressive in his foot work against Lyon. The half-century would give Rahane some much-needed boost heading in to the remainder of the series.
Head produced the firefighting innings that the Aussies so badly needed in the first innings. Coming in at 87/4 in the first essay, Head was clever, defended with clarity and milked runs off anything loose. He was easily the best of Australia's top-order batsmen and made the opportunity count with a pretty good half-century. He was the second-last batsman to be dismissed in the fist innings, but by then had taken the hosts as close as 15 runs to India's total. He was resilient in the second innings too, before Ishant produced a snorter to send him back early.
Hazlewood was the best Australian seamer on show, consistent, immaculate and made the Indians work for their runs. He sent back KL Rahul early in the first innings to give Australia the edge and returned to prise out Rahane. He finished with a three-wicket haul and carried over the consistency to the second innings where he once again dismissed Rahul. He went wicketless thereafter, but on a spicier wicket, Hazlewood showed he could be a handful, which augers well for Australia going ahead. With the bat, Hazlewood put on a composed display while chasing the target and helped Australia get close to the target in the company of Lyon. He was last man dismissed, edging off Ashwin to seal the game for India.
Cummins was impressive with his relentless lines, extra zip and tirelessly kept running in at full tilt with the old ball. The seamer lurked in the shadows of Hazelwood and Starc but bent his back with the old ball to make life difficult for the Indians. He accounted for Kohli early in the first innings and effected a sensational run-out to send back Pujara. He went wicketless in the second essay but Australia would have little to no concerns about his ability to step up when needed. As was the case during the Ashes, Cummins was quite a handful with the bat and started the late fightback that brought Australia very close to the target.
Shami created the big breakthroughs for Kohli in the second innings when he found his groove. He had Marcus Harris caught behind and Peter Handscomb mistiming a pull. But perhaps his biggest scalp was that of Mitchell Starc when the Cummins-Starc partnership was gaining momentum. Shami's inconsistency, though, was evident and he might want to become more of an impact bowler for Kohli to rely upon regularly.
Starc was used in short bursts by Paine and bowled reasonably full to try and gain swing. He was erratic at times but accounted for a clueless Murali Vijay twice. Starc's extra zip and pace proved to be a handful against the long Indian tail and three of his five wickets in the Test were of lower-order batsmen. While this could be an underrated skill as the series goes on, Starc against India's tail could be a game-changer.
Paine showed the application that most of Australia's top-order batsmen failed to show on the last two days. The wicket-keeper batsman came in on Day 5 with Australia striving to keep the game alive, and played a superb innings where he resisted the Indian bowlers with the old ball reversing and spinning out of the rough. His 73-ball vigil came to an end when Bumrah prised him out with the new ball.
With all the spotlight on him before the series, Kohli walked in and edged one to gully off Cummins to be dismissed early. He was party to India’s disappointing top-order collapse in the first essay but appeared to be least concerned about the same as he went about marshaling his troops impressively while skippering. He was expected to go big in the second innings but fell to Lyon after getting a start. Kohli will be key to India’s chances in the remaining games and India will want him to step up and make the big runs like in 2014.
The Australian opener was more assured on Test debut than Finch and Khawaja, and appeared rock solid while he lasted. He was pretty good against the seamers and judged movement and pace really well which augers well for Tests on greener tracks. He seemed a tad fidgety against Ashwin, and was dismissed by him in the first innings. The second essay saw Harris slashing at a wide one from Shami to get caught behind. He got starts in either innings, but failed to convert it to something substantial. That said, Harris has shown good temperament and patience and could be a key player for Australia this summer.
Picked over Mitchell Marsh, Handscomb didn't make the big runs but showed clearly that he had fine-tuned a dodgy technique. He is believed to be one of Australia's best players of spin and showed as much when he manipulated Ashwin very cleverly in the first innings. He fell to poor shots in both innings — edging behind to Bumrah off a nothing ball and a half-hearted pull of Shami in the second — and will want to make his return to the side more memorable going forward in the series.
Aside from his constant chatter behind the stumps, Pant wasn't very effective with the bat and appeared to be overly hurried each time he came on. A few wild swings appeared comical given the game situations but that's how he plays and Pant will want to back those shots up with some runs to keep the critics away. He took 11 catches behind the stumps, but let down Lyon early which nearly cost India.
Rahul's frustrating tendency to throw away starts or go for his shots too early continued at Adelaide. He fell to a shocking shot in the first innings, going after a wide delivery from Hazlewood in the second over and edging to the cordon to depart for 2. In the second essay, Rahul was in full-on attacking mode and compiled the first half-century stand with Vijay away from home. Yet again though, he failed to make the start count and edged behind off Hazlewood for 44.
After an impressive act early in the first innings when he was sturdy in defence and calculated in attack, Rohit threw caution to the wind when he looked to slog sweep Lyon off back-to-back deliveries. The first one just about cleared the mid-wicket ropes, but the second turned out to be a fairly regulation catch for the same fielder. He fell to Lyon in the second innings too, this time not bothering to score more than a solitary run. Rohit's selection should be the only question India have ahead of the second Test.
Khawaja was Australia's most reliable batsman in the absence of Steven Smith and David Warner, but failed to live up to that reputation, struggling against Ashwin in either innings. While he lasted, Khawaja appeared as composed as any of Australia's batsmen, but gloved behind off Ashwin soon. In the second essay, he resisted for 41 balls before playing a heedless shot off the off-spinner to throw it away.
With Prithvi Shaw all but ruled out for the second Test, Vijay might get a longer rope, but he appeared to have lost the composure and temperament that made him such a huge force at the top of the order in Tests. He was much appreciated for his ability to leave balls assuredly outside the off-stump, but at Adelaide he kept wafting at them, nicking behind off Starc twice on the drive. India need Vijay to find his calm at the top and Perth could indeed be his last gig in Test cricket if that doesn't materialise.
With his tendency to go across the off-stump, Finch was a clear lbw candidate much like Shane Watson and it was fairly well exploited by the Indians, who kept angling the ball back into him. Ishant, in particular, was superb against Finch and nearly had him in the first over in both innings’. There was confusion regarding where exactly he should bat before this Test and after Adelaide, Australia might just have to accept that opening the innings with him is tricky against a formidable bowling attack.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor