SYDNEY - Australia lost their first series at home to India, but Tim Paine, their captain, believes it could all have turned out differently had the hosts taken their chances in the first Test in Adelaide.

The home side had reduced India to 86/5 despite losing the toss in that Test, but the visitors rallied, and set Australia a target of 323. The hosts came within 32 runs of victory, though, and could have well won it had their top order pulled their weight. Australia then levelled the series in Perth, but India dominated in Melbourne and with the finale in Sydney washed out, India secured the series 2-1.

“I think the obvious one (turning point) was the Adelaide Test,” Paine said after the match on Monday, 7 January. “We honestly feel that we let that Test match slip. “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.”

Paine went further, saying the scoreline might well have been 2-1 to the hosts had Australia taken their chances. “Looking back now, if we’d won that Test, win Perth, we got outplayed in Melbourne, then a washout (in Sydney) it could have been 2-1 the other way,” he said. “It’s funny, in a big series of four Tests, five days a match you go back to a couple of key moments in the very first Test match 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 were missing their two batting mainstays – Steve Smith and David Warner are suspended – but Paine said his side were still confident of beating India, the No.1-ranked side in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings, ahead of the series.

“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,” he said. “But throughout the series, more often than not, when those big moments came up, Virat (Kohli) has scored runs, (Cheteshwar) Pujara has scored runs, (Jasprit) Bumrah has bowled a great spell and we couldn’t quite get through those moments.

“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. 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.”

That said, Paine saw positives in the performances of Marcus Harris and Travis Head. “It’s the experience at this level that those guys have got now that they wouldn’t have got,” said Paine. “If we get to the Ashes next year and Marcus, Travis and Marnus (Labuschagne) are playing, they understand now the pressure and magnitude of the situation on them. There are some positives in getting these guys some experience against an absolute high-quality attack.” Australia and India will now clash in three one-day internationals, starting with the first ODI in Sydney on 12 January.