Cummins, Hazlewood star in brutal morning session

Under the gaze of St Peter's, India's batsmen were felled with frightening swiftness

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
Murder in the Cathedral was a 1935 drama penned by TS Eliot about the assassination of the medieval Archbishop Thomas Becket. Murder by the Cathedral should be the title forever applied to the brutally decisive seventh session of the Adelaide Test.
Under the gaze of St Peter's, India's batsmen were felled with frightening swiftness by an Australian pace attack that found, much to their delight, the pink ball was swinging for more or less the first time in what had already been a quite challenging match for batsmen.
Adding to the serendipitous meeting of conditions in the air - markedly less windy than previously - with those under foot on a pitch that had perceptibly quickened from its more sluggish beginnings, was the fact that the Australians had learned from the first day to pitch the ball a little fuller in search of movement and forward strokes from the batsmen.
In doing so, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood found the sort of "zone" they had enjoyed on the second day of the Leeds Ashes Test in 2019, South Africa's seamers had experienced against the Australians when bowling them out for 47 at Cape Town in 2011, and Curtly Ambrose entered during his mesmerising spell of 7 for 1 in the decisive Perth Test of the 1992-93 bout for the Frank Worrell Trophy.
On each occasion, there was just enough bounce and lateral movement, by no means an extravagant amount, meaning that edges were consistently found rather than thin air. And on each occasion, whether pushed to be more aggressive by the match situation or simply through building up to the ideal rhythm over the course of a series, the bowlers ventured fuller than their usual lengths when usually they hesitated out of dislike for being driven too often.
If there was an added contemporary factor making things still more difficult for the Indians, it arrived in the form of the contrasting approaches taken by Cummins and Hazlewood. As Australia's most accomplished seam bowler, Cummins has now utterly mastered the art of wobbling the seam, something he began doing more consistently in the 2019 Ashes, culminating in his memorable delivery to bowl Joe Root at Old Trafford. This method is impossible for a batsman to pick up before the ball has pitched, leaving them little or no time to adjust when it moves.
At the other end, after an exploratory couple of overs from Mitchell Starc, Hazlewood provided the perfect contrast by sending down a beautifully balanced, upright seam in the more traditional manner once favoured by Ryan Harris and Damien Fleming before him. With the fuller length and just enough lateral movement through the air, the Cummins and Hazlewood tandem was at a level very few batting line-ups through Test match history would have been able to cope with.
"He sort of gets a natural wobble on it all the time," Hazlewood said of Cummins, "so it's something that's a bit different and it really worked for him in England with the big seam on the Duke. And even when there's grass on this wicket it works really well. I think he can do both. He's not a big swinger of the ball but he can do it from time to time. It's a nice little change that all three of us are a lot different I guess."
An advantage of the Australian bowlers now having spent the better part of four years operating together in Tests is that they are now well versed at switching between wobble seam and swing methods depending on how the conditions favour them. It's something Tim Paine spoke candidly about on the second evening, when the Test remained finely balanced after the captain had salvaged something from his side's halting first innings with a knock of 73 that will look better with each passing day.
"It's a bit of everything actually. Some of the times they'll talk about it and we'll say 'no we think you can do this or do that', but they're experienced bowlers," Paine said. "Most of the time it comes after they've done one of the things and it's not working as well as they would like, so they try something else.
"I think Patty's more like that most of the time, regardless of the conditions. Josh is someone that can do a bit of both and Starcy's more swing than seam. So we've got a nice mix. [Cameron] Greeny is someone who can do both, he's got really good skills from what we've seen with seam up and swing he can do everything. So we're lucky to have such a good attack. But most of the time they see what's happening at the time and they're experienced bowlers, they can make that decision and we back them to do it."
The initial decision to start with Cummins and Starc, seam and swing, was adjusted to Hazlewood, and the contrasting challenges posed by the NSW pair, city and country, were far too much for the Indians. After Jasprit Bumrah's initial return catch to Cummins, Cheteshwar Pujara could do nothing about a delivery that seamed and bounced away, Mayank Agarwal snicked a perfectly pitched first ball from Hazlewood, Ajinkya Rahane followed in near enough to an action replay, and Virat Kohli did what he had successfully avoided on day one - pushing hard at a full ball.
All up, this spellbinding sequence saw India lose 5 for 4 in 5.5 overs, and meant there was very little the rest could do. Hazlewood went on finish with 5 for 8, having had 5 for 3 at one stage, while Cummins recorded the relatively mundane analysis of 4 for 21. It all added up to 36 all out, the lowest Test score in India's history. Looking on from on high, no less a top order authority than Sunil Gavaskar was at pains to emphasise the quality of the bowling rather than any intrinsic weakness in the way India had batted.
"There's very little that the Indians have done wrong," Gavaskar said admiringly on Seven's coverage. "It's been splendid bowling by the Australians - much fuller length, mixed up with the odd short delivery, around the off stump. The Indian batsmen have been just that little bit tentative, but the bowling has been tremendous."
Tremendously effective, and tremendously violent for the outcome of the match and the series. India's best chance had been to win in Adelaide while they still had Kohli in the team. Now the Australians are well and truly in the ascendant, and will leave South Australia with far happier memories of St Peter's spire than anyone in the touring party.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig