The word ‘mighty’ that so comfortably qualified Australian sides over the years might just have lost its way in the sands of time. What we get these days is a skeleton of a glorious past that invariably capitulates when somebody decides to take them head-on.
On Thursday, it was Ravindra Jadeja (5/47) who made some of the Aussie batters look like beginners in red-ball cricket. The pitch at Jamtha wasn’t the Eden Gardens track of 2001 that would produce five days of brilliant cricket before a result could be extracted. But that doesn’t mean that it was so demonic that Australia, after choosing to bat first, would capitulate for a paltry 177 in just over two sessions.
🗣️🗣️ I found great rhythm with my bowling today#TeamIndia all-rounder @imjadeja reflects on his super five-wicket… https://t.co/WTi8plKDaH
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1675946049000
India’s openers Rohit Sharma (56 batting) and KL Rahul (20), during the course of their 76-run partnership, showed that batting is perfectly possible on this track. Rahul got out to debutant offie Tod Murphy (1-13), who looked quite impressive with the speed and the line and length that he bowled, in the penultimate over of the day. But if Rohit, nightwatchman R Ashwin and the top-order to follow can get going in the first session of the second day, it could well be curtains for Australia in the first Test.
While the ineptitude of most of the Aussie batters was the theme of the day, India had their share of heroes. After pacemen Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami accounted for the two openers, Jadeja did what he has been doing on Indian tracks for the last 10 years.
Coming in to bowl as early as the 10th over, the left-armer didn’t try to do anything fancy. He just hit the right spot around the off-stump and got a few to turn away from the right-hander at a fair clip. His surprise delivery was the one that came in with the arm and got the wicket of Steve Smith (37), who had looked the part till then.
It was Smith’s partnership of 82 runs with Marnus Labuschagne (49) for the third wicket that seemed to be bringing Australia back into the game after a disastrous start. The two were using their feet well, weren’t overcomplicating it and seemed to be playing for Jadeja’s incoming ball while the one that turned away was beating the bat without much damage.
But after lunch, it was probably the lure of a milestone that brought Marnus out of his crease off a slightly slower delivery by Jadeja and the ball did enough to beat the Aussie’s bat. KS Bharat, on his debut, completed a magnificent stumping that took the steam away from the Aussie counter-attack.
It was the psychological effect that this wicket had on the Aussies that simply crippled them. Matt Renshaw (0) was a fish out of water against Jadeja and Smith, too, seemed to have lost his composure, starting to expect demons from the pitch. The straight one that he missed clearly indicated that he had shifted from his initial plan and started playing for the turn.
Alex Carey (36 off 33 balls) and Peter Handscomb (31) tried to mount a comeback, but there was an element of desperation about the sweeps and reverse sweeps that the left-hander was employing against Ashwin (3-42).
It was one such reverse sweep that took the edge and rolled on the stumps, giving Ashwin his 450th Test wicket, another brilliant milestone for the star offie. The rest of the Aussie batting was just cannon-fodder in front of Jadeja and Ashwin.