Following yet another below-par performance with the bat, Australian skipper Tim Paine minced no words in criticizing the team for it’s “sloppy” performance. Despite some resistance by the lower order, the hosts could only work their way to 200 before being bowled out, and setting India a target of 70 to win the Test and level the series.
The visitors, despite losing two early wickets, chased down the target with 8 wickets in hand, courtesy an unbeaten 51-run stand between debutant Shubhman Gill and skipper Ajinkya Rahane. The reason for Australia’s shortcoming lay in the performance of its top order, which performed below par for the third time in four innings so far. In the Melbourne Test, in fact, it was the first time in 32 years that none of the Australian batsmen managed to post a half-century in a home game.
“We are very disappointed, we played pretty poor cricket, pretty sloppy cricket, for the majority of the match,” Paine said after the match, on Tuesday (December 29). “That’s to take nothing away from India; they put us under pressure and forced us into making a number of mistakes, especially with the bat, and in the field, and when you do that against good side it makes it very hard to win.
“You’ve got to give the Indian attack credit, they’ve bowled beautifully to us, there’s no doubt about that. We haven’t adapted as well as we would have liked. As a batting group, there’s no doubt we are very disappointed with what we’ve put up in the first two Test matches, but there’s still two to go so we’ll work hard and try to rectify it for the next Test.”
Apart from the absence of David Warner, who has missed the first two Tests due to injury, Steve Smith’s poor returns hasn’t helped the team either. Barring Marnus Labuschagne, none of the batsmen have made significant contributions. Tim Paine, who stroked an unbeaten half-century in the first Test, has the best average among Australian batters in this series. However, he too suffered a twin failure at the Boxing Day Test. In both the innings, he was a part of contentious umpiring decisions. While in the first one, he was saved after a run out appeal was turned down by the third umpire, in the second innings, he was adjudged caught behind despite HotSpot not suggesting an outside edge. The decision was overturned, after India took a review, on the basis of Snicko showing a spike.
Not pleased with the consistency in decision making, Paine admitted to have spoken to the match officials about it.
“I’ve spoken to them. It wasn’t very productive. But I’ve spoken to them and raised my only concern,” Paine said. “My concern yesterday was not with the technology, it was with the precedent that was set in the first innings with [Cheteshwar] Pujara and the fact I just think the decision was made too quickly.
“He [Paul Wilson, third umpire] didn’t look at enough replays to see the full evidence, that there was probably a gap between bat and ball, the line itself had started before it went past my bat and it finished again. So there were just lots of things that didn’t marry up for me. I saw some photos of it, all sorts of things, I just don’t think he took the time to look at the evidence. The technology itself, I thought was okay.”
Admitting that he was disappointed with the decision, Paine felt that had he batted for longer, Australia could have been in a position to possibly fight in the last innings.
“Extremely frustrating, no doubt about that. Crucial part of the game,” Paine said. “Felt like I’ve been playing pretty well at the start of this series and I thought if I could get in a partnership with [Cameron] Greeny and add another 50 to 100 to 120 runs together then the whole game changes. So to have a finish like that was extremely disappointing, but it is what it is.
“I think that was pretty clear from my reaction and I thought we had a pretty similar example in the first innings with Pujara on the first ball of day two, which sets a precedent. Then it seemed to change.”
Amidst all the batting disappointments, however, Paine is pleased with the performance of Chris Green who composed a patient 45 in the second innings after Australia were reduced to 99 for 6, and still holding a deficit of 32 with only the lower order to bat with. In an alliance that lasted more than 35 overs and yielded 57 runs, Green was part of Australia’s highest stand of the match in company of Pat Cummins. He batted for almost three hours, playing 146 deliveries and stroking 5 boundaries.
“Think he’s started his career really well,” Paine said. “We knew the talent he’s got, we can see the temperament he’s got, and with more and more Test cricket he’s going to blossom into a pretty outstanding player, which is exciting for us as a team and the Australian public to watch.”