The opening day of a long-awaited Test summer was an intriguingly tight tussle as Australia edged ahead thanks to three late Indian wickets.
The scalps were a just reward for a disciplined bowling performance throughout the 89 overs.
And while a probing Aussie attack created a host of half-chances throughout the day that weren’t quite grasped, the biggest scalp of all was gifted to them — complimentary wrapping and all.
After putting on 88 for the fourth wicket with Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane’s reckless ‘yes’ call to an offside prod against Nathan Lyon in the 77th over would be the defining moment of the day – an action that left his skipper stranded.
Kohli had earlier brought up his second-slowest Test half-century (off 123 balls) but from there began to look more comfortable at the crease and on-track for a defining innings in his only match of the series.
But Rahane’s ‘yes, no, sorry’ would swing the momentum back to the home side.
The day began with a real sense of excitement after a protracted build-up to the Test summer.
A competitive ODI and T20 series had nicely whetted the appetite, but while those results will soon be forgotten, these most certainly won’t.
Mitchell Starc, yet again unfairly maligned after a lacklustre white-ball series in recent weeks, ensured the buzz was dialled up even further with a brilliant piece of bowling to remove Prithvi Shaw in just the second delivery of the summer.
Two balls later, last series’ permanent crease occupant, Cheteshwar Pujara, was edging only just short of Tim Paine behind the stumps. He survived, but the crowd were on their feet early.
There was also a palpable sense of anticipation of when debutant Cameron Green would make his first contribution to the match. Thrown the ball earlier than expected, he was all set atop his mark but Paine — in some cruel change of heart — decided against the bowling change and kept going with Pat Cummins.
But when that moment came, he didn’t disappoint. Green’s ambling approach to the crease belies the pace and bounce he then generates. He drives through the crease and stays nicely upright in what is an aesthetically pleasing bowling action.
His nine overs for 0/15 were the most economical of the five Aussie bowlers and ensured the tourists’ batsmen had no respite throughout the day.
After India scratched to 1/32 off 18, Cummins removed Mayank Agarwal with a beauty that seamed back through the gate, and the Aussies had their tails up.
But they also knew the hard work was to come. Pujara and Kohli then batted for over 30 overs, and while they ticked along at just two-an-over, the contest was captivating throughout.
Enough chances were created in the intriguing tussle, too, to suggest the pitch isn’t the batting paradise Adelaide can sometimes be.
Pujara struggled at times against Nathan Lyon while Kohli awkwardly fended off bouncers from both Cummins and Starc.
After Lyon eventually dismissed Pujara for 43, India found some fluency through Rahane and Kohli.
Taking over the captaincy after this Test and looking for healthier returns than in the 2018-19 series (217 runs in seven innings), Rahane looked assured and in control in the middle.
As the pair ticked along at three-an-over — an expansive rate compared with other periods of the day — Paine was left to rue earlier opting against using the DRS for a caught-behind decision against Kohli off Lyon in the 36th over. Replays showed the ball brushing the Indian skipper’s gloves as he looked to work off his hip but, despite having three (rather than two) reviews per innings this series, the Aussies did not use the technology.
As cricket coverage goes, the story became bigger as Kohli began to hone in on what would be a monumental century for his country. But as it was, Paine and company’s blushes were saved when a poor — and potentially pivotal — unforced error from Rahane ended Kohli’s stay.
Further, the assuredness that had defined Rahane’s innings seemingly left him after running out his captain, and he too was soon back in the sheds courtesy of Starc.
And when Josh Hazlewood trapped Hanuma Vihari in front, the Aussies ensured they had edged ahead in the contest with India closing at 6/233.
Two summers ago, India reached just 250 in the first innings of first Test in Adelaide but went on to claim victory, one that would prove pivotal in their historic 2-1 series win.
If they were to scratch their way to 300 on Friday afternoon, they’ll fancy their hopes of doing the same thing again.