Following their fractious on-field battle, we break down the performance of the two skippers at Perth.
Winner – Tim Paine
The Aussie skipper wins this battle hands down for not tinkering with his playing XI despite the loss at Adelaide. The wicketkeeper-batsman refrained from triggering the changes and it paid off with the likes of Marcus Harris coming good.
The only selection error from Australia can be put down to Peter Handscomb’s inclusion whose poor technique seems to have been figured out by bowlers at the international level.
Kohli, on the other hand, goofed up big time with his team selection by not choosing to play a specialist spinner. His decision to pick Umesh Yadav over Bhuvneshwar Kumar was also a baffling one.
Winner – Virat Kohli
Despite Kohli crafting a masterful ton in the first innings, he has only shaded this battle with Paine chipping in with important contributions in both innings.
Kohli was brilliant in his 123-run masterclass in the first innings after India were reeling at 8-2 and his century helped the visitors regain a footing in the match. The India skipper’s stay did not last too long in the second innings on a treacherous pitch with Nathan Lyon getting his number for the seventh time.
Paine, meanwhile, made two identically equal contributions of 38 and 37 with the bat while shepherding the tail in both instances. He was also excellent for Australia behind the stumps with six catches to his credit.
Winner – Tim Paine
When it comes to the captaincy performance of the pair on the field, it is once again the Aussie who came out trumps with some astute leadership.
Paine’s field placements and bowling changes were on point throughout the Test, particularly on the final day. He navigated his field brilliantly when Rishabh Pant was batting with the tail to starve the India wicketkeeper-batsman off any easy reasons.
The same cannot be said of Kohli who allowed Australia’s tail to wag in both innings. Some of his field settings while bowling to the Aussie lower-order were extremely questionable. Umesh having a nightmare of a Test did not help his cause either.
BATTLE OF WORDS
Winner – Tim Paine
Australia’s build up to the series had been all about wanting to implement a new cricket culture following the blowout from the ball-tampering scandal. However, with Kohli leading the opposition, reaching the boiling point was inevitable and that was exactly what happened on days three and four.
It was clear that Paine got under the skin of Kohli with his on-field confrontation and that duel sparked the aggression back into the Aussies who had been trying to act like polite schoolboys for far too long.
It was just the needle Australia needed after falling behind in the series and it has set up the series nicely with two matches to play.
At the end of a Test filled with plenty of drama, we look at two reasons for Australia’s success as well as the two areas the visitors need to improve in.
LYON’S MASTERY OF HOME CONDITIONS
India’s decision to not field a single specialist spinner in the match was made to look foolish by Nathan Lyon who continued his stronghold over the opposition.
The Aussie off-spinner out-bowled his India counterpart Ravichandran Ashwin by some distance in Adelaide and followed it up with another match-winning display at Perth. Making excellent use of the pace and bounce on offer, Lyon’s five-wicket haul ensured the hosts a vital first innings lead.
He added three more wickets to his kitty in the second innings including the vital scalp of Kohli. His performance was the difference between the two sides.
OPENERS’ EXCELLENT START
The foundation of Australia’s big win was laid in the first innings by their openers Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris. Despite lacking in Test match experience, the duo put in a display that was both assured and composed.
Batting first on a pitch which had plenty for the fast bowlers, Finch and Harris put on a 112-run opening stand. That partnership allowed Australia to post a challenging first-innings total despite India’s bowlers coming back strongly.
The two openers were looking good in the second innings too when the pitch had deteriorated considerably before Finch had to retire hurt due to multiple body blows. The match story could have been completely different if not for their first-innings stand.
While Australia’s openers played an important role in the hosts’ win, their India counterparts failed miserably in their roles.
KL Rahul’s horror show continued with the right-hander falling for just two in the first innings before being dismissed for a duck in the second.
Meanwhile, Murali Vijay continues to look a shadow of his former self with scores of 0 and 20. With Prithvi Shaw ruled out of the entire tour, India’s opening woes have deepened with neither Rahul nor Vijay inspiring any confidence at the moment.
As such, India will now have to place their hopes on a rookie in Mayank Agarwal who has only just flown in as a late replacement. Even if Agarwal comes in for the Boxing Day Test, he can only fill one hole when India have two gaping ones in the form of Rahul and Vijay.
Given the pressure the out of form openers are putting on the rest of the batting order, this is one area India will need to fix immediately if they are to keep their dreams of a maiden series win in Australia alive.
The difference in the tails once again proved crucial with Australia’s lower-order contributing a total of 146 runs with the bat while their India counterparts could muster only nine. That 146 runs proved to be the ultimate difference between the two teams is telling.
While it would be unfair to ask India’s tail to show more prowess with the bat, questions need to be asked of India’s bowling department which allowed Australia’s lower-order to make such an important contribution.
This problem was there to see at Adelaide too when Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc nearly pulled off an improbable win for the hosts despite Australia being down and out at one stage.
Leaking runs to the tail had been the bane of India in their defeat in England earlier this year and Kohli’s men will need to heed their lessons quickly if they are to avoid the same fate in Australia.
The quality of Test cricket in the Border Gavaskar Trophy has been of the highest order. Both Australia and India have given it their all over 10 days across Adelaide and Perth and both sides should be very proud of the heart shown by all players.
There has been no shortage of drama as well, with batsmen getting hit on the body and helmet regularly by some very hostile fast bowlers. And if that isn’t enough for the average cricket fan, there is the explosive clash between captains Virat Kohli and Tim Paine that has gotten out of hand and is likely to get uglier in the remaining two Tests.
But the action on the field hasn’t been witnessed by a full house as yet in the series. The opening day of the first match of the series in Adelaide was witnessed by just over 23,000 fans which is less than half the capacity. The reason given was India’s refusal to play a day-night Test at the ground which had become a staple at the ground. According to estimates, around 15,000 more fans would have turned up for the opening day if it was a pink-ball Test.
The trend continued in the second Test of the series with the new Perth Stadium well below half full. The 60,000-seater venue barely had 21,000 fans on the first day and officials had to close the upper tiers so that fans would have to sit on the lower deck and ensure TV shots didn’t show empty seats. That number fell to around 5,000 for the fourth day of the Test.
Whatever reasons organisers provide, a blockbuster series like Australia v India failing to attract near capacity crowds should send alarm bells ringing in cricketing circles. Australia and England were seen as the two centres where Test cricket routinely attracted capacity crowds. In fact, a crowd attendance of more than 50,000 for day of Tests is not uncommon in most venues in Australia.
But the ball tampering controversy earlier in the year and the subsequent bans on Steve Smith and David Warner seems to have ruined the cricketing appetite of many Australian fans. WACA chief executive Christina Matthews put the blame on Cricket Australia and the controversies for the low turnout.
“I don’t think it’s the team, I think Australian cricket as an entity is on the nose and a little bit of trust has been lost,” Matthews told SEN radio. “What happened in South Africa was kind of an insult to everybody and how they feel about the game.”
Whatever the reason, cricket fans in Australia haven’t rallied around Test cricket. That’s a shame because the cricket is top drawer.