For every chance they squandered, they created two more. Bumrah and R.Ashwin have been ranked at the top of the world’s bowlers over the past two years for good reason. Bumrah’s unique angularity befuddled the Australians.
For an excruciating hour, Matthew Wade and Joe Burns tried not to do anything silly, thereby managing not to do much at all. Wade, usually a freewheeler with the bat and the lip, took his promotion to Test opener altogether too literally. He and Burns waited 27 balls to score their first run, and took 14 overs to accumulate another 15.
If David Warner had a grave, he would have been spinning in it. When Bumrah was joined in the attack by Mohammed Shami, the novel Australian opening partnership was going nowhere either way, whether wading or burning.
Bumrah did them slowly. Having pinned them down like butterflies in a case, he ended up tearing their wings off, trapping both in front.
On Ashwin’s previous tour to Australia, he was not selected for three of the four Test matches. A proud man has since injected some mongrel into his game, and he wasted no time in showing his newfound aggression in his comeback. At 34, he has one last chance to prove himself on Australian soil.
A sublime arm ball accounted for Steve Smith, a change of pace tricked Travis Head, and while a long-hop dismissed Cameron Green, it was the searching examination preceding it that had the youngster jumping all over a pull shot. The athletic Kohli at midwicket took matters into his own hands, and finally India had converted a half-chance.
It came as some surprise to see Australia so outgunned in raw cricketing performance. On a slow, spongey kind of pitch, with an ominous tendency to bounce unevenly, no Australian top-order batsman produced anything like the assurance of Kohli, Rahane or Cheteshwar Pujara.
This has to be a matter of concern with another drop-in wicket waiting in Melbourne. Kohli might be going home, but the Australian batsmen will still have to find a way to score runs against three of the world’s best bowlers.
Labuschagne alone kept the scoreboard ticking. True, there were nicks through slips and hooks through the fielders’ fingers, but a positive attitude entailed risk. The contrast of styles is making for a fascinating Test, but in the end the balance has to break one way or the other.
Marx did not end up having a recipe for universal justice, and there’s no communist utopia, no even sharing of the spoils, waiting at the end of a Test match. Winner takes all, so long as he manages to grasp it when it comes his way.
Malcolm Knox is a journalist, author and columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.