Three Indian wickets in the final hour of play tipped the opening day of the pink-ball Test completely in favour of Australia after visiting skipper Virat Kohli had set the India innings up with his 23rd half-century at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. The sessions card at the end of the day's action might read 2-1 in favour of Australia, but it was a day of top quality Test cricket as fortunes swung with each passing hour.
In the end, it was a story of what could have been as India slowly handed away the advantage they had gained back to Australia. At stumps, the score read 233/6 with Wriddhiman Saha (9) and R Ashwin (15) at the crease and the Australian bowlers looking to go for the kill. For the hosts, Mitchell Starc looked a completely different character with the second new ball in hand and finished with the best figures of the day - 2/49.
With skipper Kohli leading from the front and hitting a gritty 74, it finally took a silly misunderstanding between him and deputy Ajinkya Rahane for a brilliant 88-run partnership come to an end in the form of a run-out. Having done all the hardwork from when the openers were dismissed cheaply in the opening session to playing out the tricky twilight phase, Kohli looked set to bring up his fourth hundred in one of his favourite grounds in Australia.
But just when it looked like the Australian bowlers had given up and were waiting for the visitors to make a mistake, the visitors obliged. Hitting a Nathan Lyon delivery straight to Josh Hazlewood at wide mid-off, Rahane called for a single and then sold his skipper a dummy. By the time Kohli turned back, the bails had already been dislodged.
Rahane had both his arms up in the air as a show of apology, but skipper Kohli silently walked back hoping for his deputy to make amends with a daddy hundred. But it wasn't to be as the burden of running his skipper out suddenly turned him into a pale shadow of the batsman who was hooking and pulling with elan.
In the end, his stay ended a little later as Starc caught him plumb in front for 42. It was strange to see Hanuma Vihari convince him to take a review when the ball was aimed to go only one way - stumps. Vihari too managed just 16 before he played beside the line of a straight delivery from Hazlewood and was trapped plumb in front.
Earlier, opting to bat first, India got off to the worst possible start as Starc cleaned up Shaw (0) off the second delivery of the match. Cheteshwar Pujara then joined Mayank Agarwal in the middle and the duo tried to stitch a partnership for the visitors as both batters saw off the early spells of Starc and Hazlewood.
However, with half-an-hour to go in the first session, Pat Cummins provided the second breakthrough as he bowled Agarwal (17), reducing India to 32/2. Kohli then came to the crease and along with Pujara fearlessly faced the Australian fast bowlers in conditions conducive to pace bowling.
The second session saw some strokeplay from both the batsmen after weathering the storm in the opening session. But just when it looked like the duo would give India the upper hand and walk away with the honours of winning the session, spinner Nathan Lyon spoiled the party.
Just after reaching the team total of 100, India lost Pujara. A thick edge off the pad found Marnus Labuschange. A review confirmed the contact of bat and ball after which the on-field umpire overturned his decision and Pujara walked back to the pavilion. He scored 43 runs off 160 balls including two fours.
Brief Scores: India 233/6 (Kohli 74, Pujara 43; Starc 2/49) vs Australia