India vs Australia: Pacers' strategy to hit good length and choke run-flow worked perfectly as Aussies crumbled under pressure

On previous visits Down Under, India would have made the mistake of trying too much to make the new ball count, but on this occasion, they had conjured up a plan to hit the good length on a consistent basis and wait for the batsmen to make the mistakes.

Gaurav Joshi, Dec 07, 2018 15:42:58 IST

It was an hour and a half into the first session, the Kookaburra ball was over 20 overs' old, a time at which it loses it hardness and the seam starts to cave in. India had only managed to pick up the solitary wicket of Aaron Finch. Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja were looking comfortable at the crease. The pitch started to look placid and batsmen seem to have plenty of time playing off the back foot.

Many experts in the various commentary boxes at the Adelaide Oval started to express their views on how India should have bowled a yard fuller so they could have created more chances. The statistics show that India's 44 percent of the deliveries were good length and only eight percent were full. Contrastingly, the Australian bowlers had managed to pitch nearly 30 percent of their deleveries in the fuller zone on the opening day and had India at 41-4.

Ishant Sharma took two for 31 on second day against Australia. AP

India's Ishant Sharma took two for 31 in 15 overs on second day against Australia. AP

On previous visits Down Under, India would have made the mistake of trying too much to make the new ball count, but on this occasion, they had conjured up a plan to hit the good length on a consistent basis and wait for the batsmen to make the mistakes. It might seem defensive and dour, but it is a method that has brought success in Australia for the hosts and South Africa in 2016.

Ishant Sharma was the catalyst. The lanky paceman's first spell read 5-3-6-1. Jasprit Bumrah was slightly off colour, but Mohammed Shami provided the perfect back up with an initial burst of 4-3-1-0. To be fair, the ball rarely beat the bat, but the runs never flowed. India had a grip on the contest and there was nobody in the Australian batting line-up that was prepared to take on the bowling.

The seamers had laid the platform for Ravichandran Ashwin. The ace off-spinner was introduced in the 11th over and immediately hit the right line and length to both Khawaja and Harris. The day before the match, Ashwin had called up Parthiv Patel to bat in the nets, so he could work out the right line and angles to left-handed batsmen. After all, four of Australia's top six are left-handed.

With the strong breeze blowing across the ground, Ashwin got the ball to drift nicely. The fast bowlers had already put the batsmen in a defensive mindset and Ashwin took full advantage of it when debutant Harris pushed tentatively at a half-volley to be caught at silly point. Two overs later, Ashwin removed Shaun Marsh and Australia were 59-3.

But despite Ashwin picking up the wickets, the fast bowlers didn't go overboard with attack from the other end. The plan was to be patient and probe away outside the off-stump. Majority of the balls sailed just over the stumps and over half of them were on the line of the sixth stump. The Australian run-rate dropped to two runs an over.

Rishabh Pant could be heard on the stump mic telling Usman Khawaja "not everyone can be Pujara". It proved to be true as Khawaja's vigil came to an end on 28 off 128 balls. He had only managed to hit one boundary.

In the afternoon session as temperatures threatened to reach 40 degree Celsius, the fast bowlers in the past would have lost their concentration and endeavored for a quick fix, but not today. In the second session, Australia could only manage to score 60 runs in 28 overs.

In between the 20th and the 70th over, a period that demanded restriction of runs, the Indian bowling unit bowled 16 maidens, an indication of how well they applied the clamps on the Australia batting by persisting with the tactics of boring the batsmen out. Peter Handscomb was the best example, the right-hander was well set, but the lack of runs eventually led to him trying to guide a ball on the line of fifth stump straight to the wicket-keeper.

After the end of day's play, Ashwin told reporters that it was a collective effort.

"We don't isolate it as a fast bowling or spin bowling pack, we identify it as a bowling unit together because one cannot exist without the other. But definitely we have been working on it and we have done really well over the last year or so as a bowling unit. Today was another perfect attrition day for us. I thought we really bottled them up, soaked them up and put on the pressure from both ends. That's what we have always asked for from the bowling unit and we have been doing that on a consistent basis now."

At stumps, India with their new simplistic plans managed to knock over seven Australian batsmen. But the job is not done yet. They need to return on the third morning and persist with the same plan to ensure the team gets a vital lead heading into the second innings.

Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 15:42:58 IST

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