Bowling has been India’s strength of late, but the Adelaide Test saw batters finally coming to the party. They certainly did not boss the opposition bowlers, but knocks from Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and even KL Rahul were good signs for the matches to follow.
However, the batting doesn’t only constitute of the batsmen; the bowlers have to play their part as well. This makes cricket one of the only sports in which you have to execute a particular skill despite you being not very good at it.
Indian pacers though are unabashedly poor batsmen, and they don’t seem too worried about their auxiliary skill. Each of India's bottom three in Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were dismissed for ducks in the second innings of the first Test. Even in the first innings, Shami and Bumrah did not trouble the scorers at all while Ishant huffed and puffed through to four runs.
In contrast, the opposition lower-order batsmen stuck it out and made the Indian bowlers toil hard and long in both innings. While the Aussie bottom three scored 39 in the first innings, they gave India a real scare in the second innings, putting together a threatening 79.
In the practice match as well, Indian bowlers fared poorly against the tail. When you concede 203 runs to the bottom four of the Cricket Australia XI, a team that has some players who have not even played first-class cricket, and 83 to a No 8 batsman of no repute, it is certainly a matter of worry.
Even on their recent England tour, India’s lower order batting proved to be the differentiator between Test wins and ‘well-fought’ Test matches. The way Sam Curran and to a lesser extent Adil Rashid chipped in and frustrated the Indian bowlers not only arrested India's momentum but also added useful runs to the English lead.
When Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri were asked to name England’s man of the series, they deservedly chose Sam Curran as he had stepped up his game at crucial junctures and denied India victories. The matches in Birmingham and Southampton particularly ended in Indian defeats with small margins; both lesser than the runs off Curran’s blade.
The Australian lower order has some capable batsmen. In Mitchell Starc, they have a strong bloke who can score quickly and has the power to hit the ball over the boundary consistently. Nathan Lyon has a very good defensive technique. He added 64 runs in the 1st Test to go along with an eight-wicket haul.
Lyon had also shown his worth in the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE where he held his end up for 34 crucial balls with skipper Tim Paine to save an iconic Test match for Australia. Pat Cummins is a handy batsman and is equally good with both defence and attack. Josh Hazlewood too can hold his own with his defensive batting if need be.
Indian pace bowlers don't have the competency to hang around, and unfortunately, it seems like they don't even try. The list is headlined by who else but Shami who throws his bat around like the sword of a doomed warrior and is able to hit a couple of boundaries, if fortunate enough, before ambling back to the dressing room. When it comes to Ishant, the best he can do is to play with a dead bat for a period of time and that too without a lot of success. As regards to Bumrah, the less it is said, the better.
This highlights the stark difference between the lower-order batting of the two sides. Additionally, Indian bowlers not only find it hard to score but struggle to knock down the opposition’s tail quickly enough. Team India thus takes a double beating and lets the match slip from its grasp.
The Kookaburra ball is another factor which can further deepen this valley between the two teams. The ball that will be used for the Australian Test series shows all its tricks in the first five-ten overs. After the 20-over mark, batting eases out considerably. It is the easiest to bat between the 50th and the 80th overs before the new ball is taken.
More often than not, it is the lower order batsmen who are at the crease around the 70th over, and this is when they can cash in. The opposition bowlers are tired and are in their third or fourth spells. While the Australian lower-order seems quite adept to milk some handy runs, India are still a long way away from putting together a stubborn tail.
Adelaide gave a scare, but the Indian bowlers managed just enough guile to pull through. Perth, Melbourne and Sydney are still to follow, and even if the Aussie bowlers manage to win one of these three with the bat, it can turn the dynamics of the series upside down.