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Steve Smith & co. packed a punch

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Steve_Smith_Australia_cricketWhat a turnaround it was at Pune. Nobody expected it. Nobody predicted it. And yet it happened. Cricket is truly an exciting, unpredictable game.

Everything backfired for India. Virat Kohli was batting in my dream when he left the straight ball from Steve O’Keefe but when I saw the margin of defeat, I realized that it was a reality and I was sleeping while watching Virat Kohli in the second innings and India lost the match like they did not know how to bat on a rank turner.

As an Indian fan, it’s just hard to believe that Indians were bowled out for less than 110 runs in each innings of a Test in India after having an unbeaten streak of 19 Tests. But Australia’s captain and spinners proved me wrong.

Australia read the pitch better than India. When asked about the pitch Kohli said: “I don't think it was any different from the turners that we played on in the past. We just didn't play good cricket. You can ask me any sort of question or any perception about the loss. We know exactly what happened, the mistakes that we made. External perceptions don't matter to us, they have never mattered to us.

"We played good cricket, that's why we won. We played bad cricket, and that's why we lost. That's how simply we look at this defeat. We just want to take the learnings forward, improve and come back stronger in the next game. I can assure you that we are going to come back with more intent for sure, and put Australia under pressure straight from ball one.”

Virat Kohli is right in his own way, but India went in with a weak batting lineup in the match. They did not consider how Ashwin, Saha, Jadeja and even Jayant Yadav would play on a rank turner. India lost the toss but it should not have mattered that much, as ball was turning sharply from the second over of the Test itself.

 

Now, the key question is: where did India lose the Test? They lost 25% of the Test when they allowed Mitchell Starc to score 61 runs in the first innings; that 61 from Starc helped Australia gain an advantage.

In turn, Australia’s fast bowlers stood up early and got the key wickets of Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara – the two players on whom India usually depend on to build a platform. Then came the moment when it told me that Indians have lost the half of the Test: Mitchell Starc tempted Virat Kohli to drive early on. Kohli went for it and edged the ball. Virat Kohli was out for a duck for the first time after 104 consecutive scoring innings in international cricket.

It was a chance for Lokesh Rahul to build a partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, but Rahul went for a big shot and caught at cover by David Warner. That triggered a collapse: India were bowled out after adding 11 runs after that dismissal of Rahul. It was India’s worst ever seven-wicket collapse in Test cricket.

Here, India have lost the three-fourth of the Test.

The way Steve O’Keefe bowled in the first innings must have given Indian spinners, especially Jadeja, a message on which line to bowl. Steve O’Keefe attacked on a middle and leg stump line and got the lesser turn than Jadeja, but got the outside edges and LBW dismissals of the Indian batsmen.

Ravindra Jadeja did not learn from it. He bowled on off stump more often than not in the second innings as well and picked up only three wickets.

Ravichandran Ashwin pulled every trick he had out of his sleeves, from changing his action to changing the line and length and he got few outside edges, but Indian fielders were kind enough to give the Australian captain four chances and the captain hit a century in the second innings of Australia.

 

Smith really showed how to play spin on the dustbowl like Pune. He did not commit himself on the front-foot against spinners. He just kept playing the line of the ball to save himself from a straight ball and did not follow the balls which turned. He attacked and dismantled the Indian spinners using his feet, the sweep and the reverse-sweep. He really showed how to rotate a strike by playing with soft hands.

Indian batsmen did not see how Steve Smith and young Renshaw were playing in both innings and still tried to defend the ball on the front foot in the second innings against Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe. They gifted as many as four wickets to Australia by using the same technique.

India had the worst possible three days that they did not imagine even in their dreams. But it was a reality check.

Steve Smith and Co. have outperformed Indians in all the three departments of the game and packed a mighty punch. It will be intriguing to see what Indians will do at the second Test in Bangalore.

Will they learn their lesson, or will Australia pack another punch?

 

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