Pat Cummins matching strides with Dennis Lilee and Shane Warne
Pat Cummins matching strides with Dennis Lilee and Shane Warne

Don’t blame ‘spongy’ pitch for Indian capitulation

Dennis Lillee. Shane Warne. Pat Cummins.

Yes, the man who with Josh Hazlewood completed one of greatest hatchet jobs in the history of cricket at the Adelaide Oval, is that good.

We didn't need the stats men to reinforce the point but they did anyway on Saturday when the rampaging bowling machine took his 150th wicket in his 31st Test, precisely the same number that Lillee and Warne took to reach the same milestone.

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Future generations will see India's total of 36 - the sort of figure normally reserved for bus routes and bingo nights - and ask for reasons why Australia's pace attack suddenly became the assassins of Adelaide.

Did someone leave the hose on the wicket? No. Was it a spinner's deck that fell apart? No. Did the batsmen lose their heads? No.

It's true though that the pitch, two-paced and spongy, will be a major topic of conversation in post-match reviews after conceding 30 wickets in seven sessions and, at times, making world-class batsmen look as if they were batting with carrots.

While the wicket was not obviously abnormal, there were times when the Indian innings looked like one of those backyard games Marnus Labuschagne organises on nightmare, juiced-up wickets on which 16 is a good team total.

India's last 17 wickets in the match reaped 92 runs.

But, more significantly, the result was the collective peak of a group of bowlers who have grown from boys to men together reaching a glorious career crescendo on a balmy sunny Saturday.

Cummins is quite something on and off the field.

He was spotted having breakfast at a cafe in Hindley St on match morning, smiling regularly and chatting as if he about to spend a day at the cricket - on the hill, not playing.

But that's the thing about cricket's Mr Cool. Like Glenn McGrath and so many champions before him, he can flick the "off'' switch when he is away from the game. He's just got everything as a fast man ... pace, bounce, swing, seam and an eight-cylinder engine.

The Indian innings was simply breathtaking.

You had to keep reminding yourself this is the world's No.1 batting order. And not one of them could reach double figures. That's only the second time in Test history it's happened.

This is not Bangladesh on a bad day. It's Virat Kohli and company.

The astonishing truth is India did well to reach 36. At one stage, when they lost 4-0, they looked in doubt to reach 25.

Cricket has become batsman's game yet Australia were so pinpoint and aggressive on a wicket which was quicker than in previous days that you sensed there would be a wicket every ball.

This attack at this moment may well be the finest Australian squadron of all time - and Cameron Green's presence as the supplementary seamer will only help them get stronger.

Batsmen have nowhere to turn. The fast men are mean and miserly and pool their knowledge so generously they are instantly aware of when to change their line and length.

And then comes Nathan Lyon, the greatest off-spinner Australia has ever had.

There are times when this team looks vulnerable - and others when you wonder how they can ever lose a Test.



Originally published as Don't blame 'spongy' pitch for Indian capitulation

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