Nathan Lyon of Australia holds the ball up to the crowd after taking 6 wickets during day four.
Nathan Lyon of Australia holds the ball up to the crowd after taking 6 wickets during day four.

The two innings that should give Australia hope

THE situation is a dire one for Australia heading into the deciding day of the first Test, but they may have their two best men at the crease.

And there's serious question marks over India's long tail.

Here's what we learned from day five.

MARSH AND HEAD CAN GET THE JOB DONE

It might look like an impossible task from here but Australia may just have its best man at the crease.

Shaun Marsh has been bashed from pillar to post for a run of meagre scores at Test level, failing to surpass 10 in his six most recent innings prior to this one.

But the veteran left-hander has experience chasing a total on this Adelaide Oval deck.

Shaun Marsh will need to lead the way.
Shaun Marsh will need to lead the way.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Marsh posted a classy 163 not out for Western Australia to chase down South Australia's total from an unlikely position.

In that same game, Travis Head scored 87 in the first innings.

Now it's up to those two batsmen to save Australia's bacon. Lucky they've got runs on the board.

LYON CLOSES IN ON ALL-TIME GREATS

Nathan Lyon continues to hunt down some of Australia's all-time greats in the cricket record books.

His six-wicket haul in the third innings at Adelaide Oval against India pushed him to 10th on a prestigious list of bowlers. He moved past left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson for all-time five-wicket innings hauls.

It was the 13th time Lyon has taken five or more wickets in one innings of a Test match. One more will put him level with Craig McDermott, Terry Alderman, and Alan Davidson.

Australian bowler Nathan Lyon (right) is congratulated by Mitchell Starc. Picture: AAP
Australian bowler Nathan Lyon (right) is congratulated by Mitchell Starc. Picture: AAP

Still, he has some way to go to catch the Spin King Shane Warne, who bagged 37 during his illustrious career.

And since making his Test debut, Lyon has taken the most five-fors on Australian soil of any bowler.

His wickets in Adelaide included Indian captain Virat Kohli caught at bat-pad, and Ajinkya Rahane (70) who was caught hitting out late in the innings.

INDIA HAS A LONG TAIL

Whether or not Australia wins or loses, one thing is for certain going forward in the rest of the series - India's tail won't be wagging.

For years the lower order came to the rescue of Australia. Even in the first innings, No 8 Pat Cummins combined with Travis Head for a half-century partnership, Mitchell Starc made 15 and Nathan Lyon raced along to 24 not out.

In contrast, India's tail hardly played a shot all Test. There bottom three - Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jusprit Bumrah - made just 10 runs over the course of the Test.

They might not pay the price for their wastefulness in the second innings, where they went from a position of strength at 7-303 to 307 all out.

But going forward, Australia will draw confidence from the fact that once they get through to the lower order, they can run through India's tail.

Even wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, as exciting as his 16-ball 28 was, gives the Australians hope with every ball.

The brazen youngster is more reckless than dangerous.

AUSSIES SLOW IT DOWN

We're used to Australia scoring at a rate of knots, of run rates in excess of four runs an over and days where the men wearing baggy greens made 300 plus daily.

We're used to the Australians making it look so easy.

But that was when David Warner was using his Kaboom and Steve Smith was playing shots most could only dream of.

This, however, is a very different side, with the vast majority of the Australian batting line-up looking to consolidate their places in the side.

Indeed, Australia's run rate 49 overs into the second innings (2.29) is the slowest in a home Test match since 1994, when Allan Border's men fell six runs short of the Proteas at the SCG where they struck at just 2.03 runs per over.

Former Australian batsman Mark Waugh put the slow scoring rates down to a number of reasons.

"That's just the quality of the bowling," Waugh said in commentary on Fox Cricket.

"The outfield's been a bit slow, the pitch has been hard to really drive on the up and probably a few batsmen feeling their way on both sides; a little bit out of form or trying to establish themselves in the sides."

Earlier in the Test broadcaster Harsha Bhogle said this Australian side was unlike any he'd seen before.

Bhogle was speaking on Fox Sports' Cricket 360, where he said that Australia had adapted to their tactics with their two best batsmen - Warner and Smith - on the sidelines.

"I've been coming to Australia since '91," Bhogle began.

"Michael Vaughan, who has played for England was saying exactly the same thing, to us, we come to Australia and we see hard fought, forward-seeking cricket. Australia always come at you, Australia always taking the game ahead.

"I was just talking to Harbhajan Singh down the line the other day and he said, 'I can't believe this Australia because they're playing defence.'

"To me, the Crash-Gerrard (Robert Craddock and Gerard Whateley) kind of journalism, always coming at you, but this is a very different Australia.

"I think an army must fight with the weapons that it has. If you don't have the big weapons than you can't pretend that you have them, and I think respect to Australia that they've accepted the fact that these are the weapons that they have and so we'll play accordingly."

Cheteshwar Pujara continues to impress.
Cheteshwar Pujara continues to impress.

PUJARA A HUGELY IMPROVED BATSMAN

Four years ago Cheteshwar Pujara arrived in Australia with an average of 50.08, putting him among the game's elite of the time. He finished the series on the bench and running the drinks, with a tally of 201 runs from the campaign.

We're only a Test into this series and he's already in touching distance of eclipsing that mark. He's not too far away from facing more deliveries than he faced last time around too.

Pujara closed his till at Adelaide Oval with 194 runs to his name, pairing a first innings 123 with a second innings 71. When he was caught at bat-pad on day four it was the first time in the match he had been accounted for by a bowler, having been run out the first time around while batting with the tail. In other words, it took until the 450th delivery he had faced for an Australian bowler to truly get the better of him.

In the 471 balls he faced in the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar series, Australia's bowlers got the better of him six times, bowled twice and caught behind three of the four other times as he struggled to come to grips with Australia's pacy, bouncy wickets.

It took Pujara a long time to win back the faith of India's selectors after that series, with major concerns over whether he was a viable option away from home. He has done plenty of work since to put those concerns to bed, venturing to England to hone his game in county cricket and earlier this year he scored an unbeaten 132 in a Test in the UK.

Pujara is once again ready to take his place among the game's elite.

News Corp Australia

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