How well did India's preparation for the upcoming Test series go?
The visiting Indians, who had at least six players in their XI who will start in Adelaide, came close to - well, within one quick wicket of - potentially losing a three-day first-class match against Australia A who lost a bowler mid-match. They were effectively 84 for 9 in the third innings with a potential 30 overs remaining in the match. There were circumstances at play. Not having released any Test players from the T20I side, India chose to play an under-strength side against a strong Australia A. They could spare just the five specialist batsmen, and they declared in the first innings so that their bowlers could have a go.
They will be pleased with a show of resistance from Wriddhiman Saha and Kartik Tyagi, who stayed unseparated for more than 13 overs to even allow Ajinkya Rahane to declare the innings and let the bowlers have one final workout, an aggressive move that gave the hosts something to worry about through yet another failure for Joe Burns and a blow to the head for Will Pucovski. A possible headline-grabbing defeat avoided, Indians will go into the pink-ball warm-up match aware of the importance of these games.
The recent trend in cricket has been to look down upon these tour games, not least because the hosts hardly ever provide decent opposition or pitches. This one here had both: Test captain and aspirants alike hustling a touring side on a sporting pitch that had some life throughout the three days. You would think this is more a consequence of lack of match practice for the hosts because of the pandemic rather than some generosity, but it did serve a purpose.
It provided Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara quality time in the middle against a solid attack in the first innings. It meant Umesh Yadav could show improvement in his batting followed by his tussle with Mohammed Siraj for the third seamer's slot. It showed Saha could fight through a crisis to save his side some blushes.
However, what underlined the importance more was how some of the batsmen got out. You are not going to become better batsmen overnight in these tour games, but the purpose of these matches is mainly to switch into long-form mode and get used to the bounce in a new country. A majority of the dismissals for Indians were a consequence of one of these.
Shubhman Gill, who got only one ball in the first innings, looked like he was still playing white-ball cricket in the second innings. He scored 29 off 23 balls before cutting in the air and getting caught at point. Two things bring about such innings: you are either not switched on or your hand speed is still in limited-overs mode. Prithvi Shaw had a couple of familiar weaknesses creep up: lack of foot movement in the first innings, and extra bounce bringing about a catch in the second.
The extra bounce did trouble all three certainties for Adelaide: Pujara, Rahane and Hanuma Vihari. That two of them adjusted well enough to score handy runs shows you the importance of facing as much of this beforehand as possible. Vihari will be disappointed he fell after two starts, facing 51 and 67 balls. While he did seem to get a rough lbw call in the first innings, the dismissal in the second will bring concern: a defensive push outside off, and the extra bounce taking the edge to slip.
It might have helped to have at least one or two of Mayank Agarwal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini over at Drummoyne Oval, but evidently India didn't want to take any chances should there be any last-minute injuries over at the SCG where the T20I series was being played.
Two days off, and India will get another chance to acquaint themselves with these challenges even though it is unlikely the pink-ball tour game will be played against a side this strong. On evidence of the cricket played for the last three days, it will be an important match for the others to leave limited-overs cricket behind and get used to the extra bounce.