Match Analysis

Kuhnemann follows Jadeja blueprint to inspire Australia's comeback

Left-arm spinner shines at a time when the tour had threatened to come off the rails for his team

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Whatever way Matt Kuhnemann's Test career goes from here, he's going to have some good stories to tell.
While the first Test of this series was taking place he was playing for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield. Then he jumps on a plane and a few days later is making his debut in Delhi and taking the new ball. Virat Kohli becomes his first Test wicket.
On the first day in Indore he held the ball aloft as he walked from the field, barely two-and-a-half hours after India's innings had started, with the extraordinary figures of 5 for 16 from nine overs - a first-class career-best. His dad had reached the ground just in time to see the fifth wicket after lunch having missed the first session.
At times Australia have tied themselves in knots over their desire to have a left-arm spinner in the side and their handling of Ashton Agar was a curious sequence of his events. When Mitchell Swepson is available for Queensland, Kuhnemann can't make their Sheffield Shield side, but he was ideal for this devilish surface, which has even left India unimpressed with how much it offered on day one, and he troubled the right-handers in what was an uplifting performance for Australia on a tour that had threatened to come off the rails.
"It's been a whirlwind," Kuhnemann said of the rapid elevation, whose ODI debut came in similar fashion in Sri Lanka last year. "Like every night I'm sort of just pinching myself. Even today just sitting in the change room, just looking around speaking to [Mitchell] Starcy and Nathan Lyon and thinking this is unreal, just be able to do this. To even go out there and play with Steve Smith and all these other players and contribute to the team, it's really awesome."
Kuhnemann played a key role in getting Australia into this game after heads could have gone down. They lost the toss on a bone-dry pitch then saw Rohit Sharma nick the cover off the first ball of the game, only they didn't review. When replays showed, somewhat surprisingly, that India's captain had also survived an lbw in the same over, Smith could have been forgiven for worrying how events would transpire.
It was vital for Australia's peace of mind that they removed Rohit without too much damage after the missed reviews. Smith turned to spin in the sixth over after the brief, rare sight of two quicks in operation as the recalled duo of Starc and Cameron Green took the new ball. There is little chance of either of them being over-bowled on their comebacks.
Kuhnemann's third ball spun sharply past Rohit's edge and the next turned and bounced to defeat a slog sweep. The straight boundaries at the Holkar Stadium are enticingly short and Rohit could not resist, skipping down and being defeated by more huge spin to present Alex Carey a stumping.
In his next over, Kuhnemann produced a perfect left-arm spinner's dismissal when he drew a skittish Shubman Gill forward and found the outside edge. It felt like every ball could be a wicket-taking opportunity. Two deliveries after dismissing Gill, Kuhnemann produced one that was full at leg stump and spun square past Kohli.
On a pitch turning more than anything he had seen before, he kept it simple and let the surface play the tricks. "Nathan Lyon was excellent out there," Kuhnemann said. "Even after a couple of wickets he said don't get ahead of yourself, just think about bowling that ball…he was great for me. Not every day you get these wickets like so enjoy them, it's very different to what we get back home in Australia."
Meanwhile, there was little Cheteshwar Pujara could do about his delivery from Lyon which spun sharply and kept low. Given the conditions, Kohli was constructing a superb innings before he was dismissed by Todd Murphy for the third time in the series, an offbreak straightening perfectly from round the wicket to win the lbw.
It was a little surprising when Kuhnemann was taken out of the attack with figures of 5-0-13-3 - Shreyas Iyer having dragged on - although Smith was proactive in switching the spinners around depending on the right and left-hand batters. But after lunch his fourth wicket came when R Ashwin edged a full delivery, and the fifth arrived when one skidded into Umesh Yadav's pads.
Although it's all relative in an innings that lasted 33.2 overs of which he bowled nine, Kuhnemann said he had implemented some subtle changes as the ball got older having watched how Ravindra Jadeja operated in Delhi.
"I'm a massive fan of Jadeja and Ashwin so watched how they have bowled in the last few years," he said. "The way [Jadeja] uses his crease and probably the biggest thing I picked up in Delhi is that he brings his length back a little bit when the ball gets a little bit older. That's probably the main thing I brought into this Test. Don't want to get full especially on a wicket that stays low, being consistent on that five-six metre length."
By stumps, Jadeja himself had four to his name - all Australia's wickets to fall - to take his series haul to 21, and with India bowling last he could yet be the left-arm spinner to have the decisive say on this game. However, Australia are well placed to prevent that happening. It would be a remarkable turnaround, and Kuhnemann would be a big part of the story.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo