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The Liebke Ratings: Australia vs India, first Test

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19th December, 2020
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The first Test between Australia and India, played under lights at Adelaide Oval, is done, with Australia winning by two wickets.

It’s crazy to think Australia’s harebrained strategy of going into a Test match without any functioning openers somehow paid off.

Here are the ratings for the First Test between Australia and India.

Teasing Cameron Green
Grade: B-

Despite having no openers to speak of, Australia did have a new all-rounder in Cameron Green. With a first-class batting average of 55.04, bowling average of 21.72 and tallness average of 198.00, cricket fans were abuzz about the potential of this thrilling new talent.

Still, despite the hype, it’s important to remember to not put too much pressure on Green. A young all-rounder who’s destined to be better than Keith Miller doesn’t need the excess burden of over-the-top expectations.

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Certainly, his new teammates were determined to keep him in his place. They let Green run around in the field for a while, perhaps because he was so reminiscent of one of those massive dogs who just loves to gallop around joyously at the park, knocking things over with his outsized body, having a fantastic time.

Then Tim Paine offered him a chance to bowl, before Pat Cummins overruled the skipper and continued his spell instead, sending Green back out to do some more rambunctious running around in the outfield.

This was good stuff. It almost made up for Paine missing a perfect opportunity before play to order clothing for the newcomer that was somehow two sizes too big for him and then have the rest of the team point and say, “Hey, look! A baggy Green!” and not give him his cap until he laughed along.

Virat Kohli’s run-out
Grade: C+

The addition of Green to the bowling unit meant that Australia had a fresh palindromic attack (proudly sponsored by the Christopher Nolan impenetrable blockbuster Tenet, in cinemas now!):

Starc?! Rats!
Oh, so Josho!
Too fast! A Pat’s afoot.
Annoy? Lyon? Na…
No smack. Cam’s on.

This reversible attack almost immediately dismantled India’s openers after Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat. Mitchell Starc took the wicket of Prithvi Shaw second ball and Pat Cummins was irresistible when bowling to Mayank Agarwal. (Oh, and Cummins also eventually took Agarwal’s wicket too.)

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But Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane led a recovery. At 3-188 in the evening session on the first day India looked solid. Then Rahane called Kohli through for a lunatic’s single before changing his mind and sending his skipper back. It was too late, however, and Kohli was left standing, exasperated, in the middle of the pitch as Josh Hazlewood flung the ball to Nathan Lyon, who removed the bails.

Weird stuff from Kohli. Personally, I’d never give up making my ground if Lyon was executing a run out.

#neverforget

Tactical declarations
Grade: B-

From Kohli’s dismissal, India lost 7-56 to finish on 244. India’s bowlers in particular seemed very eager to get at the out-of-form Joe Burns, throwing away their last four wickets for 11 runs in 4.1 overs on the second day.

This bold tactic bore fruit, however, with both Burns and Matthew Wade dismissed for eight. But all this did was bring Steve Smith and last summer’s run machine Marnus Labuschagne to the crease together. (Reminder: in Afrikaans, it’s actually pronounced ‘run ma-scagh-nay’.)

Undeterred, India went to work on their plans for these two as well. Sure, the plan mostly seemed to be a determined refusal to take catches from a pair of batsmen who average 60-plus in Tests. Yet somehow it worked.

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Relentless bowling from Jasprit Bumrah and Ravi Ashwin saw Australia plummet to 5-79. When Labuschagne and Cummins fell in the same Umesh Yadav over to have Australia 7-111, pundits began to seriously speculate about whether Paine, still at the crease, should declare 133 runs behind in order to unleash his bowlers under lights.

A bold ploy, for sure. But what if Kohli then counter-declared?

Well, now you’ve got a Test match.

Tim Paine

(Photo by Mark Brake – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Couple name portmanteaus
Grade: C+

Paine therefore batted on with the tail and Australia eventually reached 191 all out.

With a decent lead of 53 on the first innings, India looked to build their advantage towards 300 to set up a famous victory.

Instead Cummins took the first three wickets cheaply before following up with the dismissal of Kohli, caught at the second grab by a diving Green at gully. Coach Justin Langer will be pleased to see that when the chance came his way the youngster went for the juggler.

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Still, catching Kohli didn’t deter Cummins and Josh Hazlewood from their ongoing torment of the new kid. The pair combined to limit India’s overall lead to a mere 89, thereby cruelly denying Green any opportunity to score a debut Test century. A hazing masterclass from Hazlewood and Cummins, whose couple name portmanteau is, coincidentally, ‘Hazins’.

(No, it is not ‘Woodcum’.)

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Lowest ever team totals
Grade: F

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Cummins and Hazlewood combined to dismiss India for their lowest ever total of 36. A remarkable score, especially given that we’ve seen lone Indian batsmen smash that many in a single over.

Should Yuvraj Singh, who famously belted Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over at the 2007 World T20, come out of retirement to replace Kohli for the remaining Tests?

Look, it couldn’t hurt.