After a day in which 15 wickets fell, India wound up 1-9 in their second innings as nightwatchman Bumrah survived with Agarwal and the tourists will take a 62-run advantage into Saturday’s third day.
While others were bogged down as Virat Kohli expertly deployed his attack, Paine batted with positivity under the Adelaide floodlights, guiding the Australian tail with an unbeaten 73 that value-added the total to a more competitive 191.
Paine, 36, has come under scrutiny over his batting before but this was the kind of determined performance he has had a habit of producing in Australia’s time of need. The wicketkeeper had volunteered to open before the match but did the job further down.
“I was just happy to contribute with the tail and get us up closer to the India score and in the game,” Paine said.
“Whilst I was happy to go up [the order] I was happy to stay at seven as well.”
He didn’t have a great deal of support from Australia’s specialist batsmen as the absence of David Warner was felt.
Marnus Labuschagne offered 47 after being given three lives from some shocking Indian fielding but aside from him only debutant Cameron Green, with 11, managed double figures.
Steve Smith, Travis Head and temporary opening duo Matthew Wade and Joe Burns couldn’t lay claim to that as Australia collapsed to 5-79.
It was a staggering turnaround from the events of the first 30 minutes when India had lost 4-11 in 4.1 overs as Cummins and Mitchell Starc mopped up their lower order with brutal efficiency.
Seven years after tearing through Michael Clarke’s men on the infamous homework tour Ashwin was able to cause havoc against Australia outside Asia.
India’s beanpole spinner knocked over Smith at the end of his first over, the former captain scoring only one before nicking a straight one from Ashwin to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip.
Ashwin sprinted away in delight as the world’s leading Test batsman walked off, unable to have made an impact after an interrupted preparation.
There were more celebrations ahead when Head, on seven, offered a simple return catch to the spinner and further still when Green tried to club Ashwin through midwicket but didn’t middle it and was caught brilliantly by a diving Kohli.
Australia’s battle with the bat began with new opening Wade and Burns struggling to apply any scoreboard pressure, with India pace frontman Bumrah taking care of both for eight.
They will get another opportunity in Adelaide but Friday’s initial display emphasised just how much Warner, who scored an unbeaten 335 at the same venue last year, is missed.
Wade had looked to prove an immediate success in an unfamiliar role, advancing up the order from the spot at No.5 he had bedded down since last year’s Ashes.
Burns, meanwhile, was out to prove a nation of doubters wrong after selectors stuck by him despite a meagre return in the Sheffield Shield and for Australia A that prompted calls for his axing.
The 31-year-old was unlucky in that the straightening delivery that thumped into his pads as tried to steer a half-volley through the leg side was only found by the ball-tracking technology to have just clipped through midwicket.
Wade should resume his place in the Australian middle order when Warner returns from injury, whether that is for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne starting next Saturday or more likely for the third Test, due to be held in Sydney from January 7 but suddenly under a cloud due to a COVID-19 cluster.
Burns, however, is under pressure to save his Test career.
Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.