Following the 2-1 Test series defeat at the hands of India, Australia skipper Tim Paine said that the 31-run loss in Adelaide was the turning point of the series.
Having lost the closely fought Adelaide Test, Australia bounced back in Perth to register a thumping 146-run victory. However, the hosts failed to build on the momentum and conceded the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne by a huge margin of 137 runs.
Australia were saved by the rain god in the fourth and final Test after the final day’s play in Sydney was abandoned due to rain. India had ripped through the Australian tail on a shortened Day 4, when bad light and rain allowed only around 100 minutes of play, bowling the hosts out for 300 in reply to their mammoth first innings total of 622/7 (declared). Paine and company were still trailing by 316 runs when the match was eventually called off as a draw.
"I think the obvious one was the Adelaide Test. We honestly feel that we let that Test slip," Paine said while addressing the media on Monday (January 7). "We thought we had a number of opportunities during that Test to go well ahead of the game and when those key moments came up India outplayed us to be honest.
"Looking back now, if we'd won that Test, win Perth, outplayed in Melbourne then a washout it could have been 2-1 the other way. It's funny, in a big series of four Tests you go back to a couple of key moments in the very first Test where we let ourselves down, or India outplayed us, and you get to the end of the series and it's really hard to take."
Australia entered into the high-profile Test series without their two key batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, but had their best possible pace attack at disposal. Interestingly, the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were outbowled by their Indian counterparts.
"We are really disappointed. We know we had some guys missing but we honestly felt coming into the series that in Australia in particular that we could beat India. But throughout the series, more often than not, when those big moments came up, Virat has scored runs, Pujara has scored runs, Bumrah has bowled a great spell and we couldn't quite get through those moments," Paine said.
"That's how you win Test matches. That's why India won this series, their best players stood up in the big moments or when they were falling behind in a game one of their good players dragged them back into the contest - or when they were in front of the game they put their foot on us and put us out of the game like they did in Sydney and Melbourne.
"Our bowlers at times bowled really well in this series, at times they didn't. Sometimes that was due to the pressure they were put under by the Indian batsmen. The group of bowlers we have in this team (has) been fantastic for quite a while now. They didn't have their absolute best series but it's not easy at this level and that can happen," he explained.
When asked about the positives he would like to take from the series, Paine praised the inexperienced duo of Marcus Harris and Travis Head for standing up against the high-quality Indian bowling attack.
"This (Indian) attack was seriously good, don't think in Australia we've given them enough credit for how relentless - the three quicks bowl pretty good pace, they are relentless in pressure, so it was hard work batting against their attack for seasoned Test players. For Marcus and Travis to show they have got the game to make runs against the best attack in the world is a real positive.
"It's the experience at this level that those guys have got now that they wouldn't have got. If we get to the Ashes next year and Marcus, Travis and Marnus are playing they understand now the pressure and magnitude of the situation on them. Don't think we can look to England just yet, need to play Sri Lanka first, and that will be another tough series, but there are some positives in getting these guys some experience against an absolute high-quality attack."
Paine admitted that his batsmen not getting the three-figure mark was the big difference between the two sides.
"Clearly, we know we aren't going to win too many Tests without hundreds so it's a huge focus of any Test batsman - it's what you are judged on, if you are batting top six in Test cricket you need to be scoring hundreds, we know that. Our players know that. For some of the guys in their third, fourth Test maybe it's hard to look and say 'I haven't scored any hundreds' but Marcus and Travis showed, and Marnus in the first innings, that they can score runs at Test cricket. Sometimes it's difficult when it seems so far away, but we have three players there who are one innings away from really breaking through. We know they have the ability to do so, we had some many starts in this series, it's learning how to convert those and getting through tough periods," he signed-off.