India wins its first maiden Test of a series in Australia, firing hopes of a larger turnaround
When R. Ashwin dismissed Josh Hazlewood and Virat Kohli roared in delight at the Adelaide Oval on Monday evening, they firmly threw down the gauntlet to hosts Australia. India’s 31-run victory over Australia in the gripping first Test of the four-match series is significant on two counts. So far on India’s much anticipated Test tours of Australia, maiden clashes have mostly been lost, with the occasional draw wrested by the visitors. The struggle dates back to India’s inaugural Test in Australia, played in 1947. Lala Amarnath led the squad, and in the first game at Brisbane the Indians were blown away by Don Bradman’s brilliance. The master scored 185 and the hosts won by an innings and 226 runs. That result set a debilitating pattern and subsequent visits ended up with two grim realities — the inability to crack the first Test jinx, and the larger failure to win a series Down Under. With this Adelaide Test firmly in their grip, Kohli and his talented squad have demolished one bogey. The larger goal now should be to rectify the other glaring anomaly: the failure to swing a Test series in Australia, a tour which inevitably demands the very best from visiting teams. The current visit is India’s 12th Test tour of Australia; during its previous sojourns, only in three series were draws secured. The rest were lost. India arrived in Australia last month ranked number one in Tests, but painfully conscious of having lost Tests outside the subcontinent. The last tours of South Africa and England were fresh in memory. As the current tour across Australia’s vast landmass, clocking air-miles and playing hours, the Twenty20 series was shared 1-1. In Tests, India sensed the edge, a direct consequence of Australia’s inherent abilities as well as the turmoil within its ranks following the ball-tampering controversy at the Cape Town Test in March. The subsequent bans on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft enfeebled Australia, and the few threats it held hinged on its pace-attack and on spinner Nathan Lyon. When the Adelaide Test commenced and India was in no time reduced to 41 for four, the ghosts of losses past seemed to stir the rest awake. India overcame Australia’s diminished strength with Cheteshwar Pujara’s glorious 123; the niggardly spells, potency and craft displayed by Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ashwin; the better batting on view in the second innings as reflected in Ajinkya Rahane’s knock. Yet, the series is alive and there are three remaining Tests at Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Surely the performance over the last five days, which also masked a rare batting failure from Kohli with just 3 and 34 in the two innings, should hold India in good stead.