Sunday, March 19, 2017

All Hail a day of Test Cricket at its finest in Ranchi!

As an neutral onlooker with no allegiance to either Team, this series has left me in captivated awe begging for more

With it showcasing Test cricket at its finest, backdropped by brilliant pitches that have highlighted individuals with real skill, temperament and resolve while ruthlessly exposing impostors along with paper tigers.

Day 4 in Ranchi it highpoint.

With India's number 3 Cheteshwar Pujara playing one of the best innings seen on Indian soil. A 525 ball epic epitomising old style Test batting full of grit, skill, discipline and an endless array of other superlatives I could drag out. It not only delivered a likely knockout blow in this Test to the Aussies but also a standing 8 count for the remaining game of the series.

He was the quintessential tide eroding away the Aussies resistance with a death through a thousand cuts mental disintegration that will leave a lasting legacy. Pujara was the tormentor while Wriddhiman Saha was the silent assassin rising in the face of his inspiration. The nuggetty keeper has such a likeness to Ian Healy with his astute glovework and gritty batting that Indian fans can rely on when a crisis is afoot. The 199 run partnership the pair shared made the bed for Ravendra Jadeja to come in after and strike a free flowing unbeaten 55 ball 54 against a tired and demoralised Aussie attack.

As for the Aussies, they were a mix of heroes and others who withered in the face of the assault. Pat Cummins was superhuman in his bowling, not only in its threat with figures of 106/4 but also his heart. Bowling in just his second first class game in 6 years, to see the fiery quick get through 39 overs that never wavered in the challenges it presented the Indian bats gave one chicken skin. Steven O'Keefe also gained respect with his amazing stamina in bowling 77 overs in the innings along with his ability to adapt in lieu of the Indian batsmen making alterations to counter him after his match winning efforts in the first Test in Pune.

By comparison, his spin twin Nathan Lyon failed miserably a similar challenge. With his only response to the Indian batsmen distinctly changing their guard to him after him obliterating them with 50/8 in the first innings in Bengaluru being bowling fast darts approaching 100kmh that represented money for old rope. It stood out when mirrored by O'Keefe providing threat by lessening and cleverly changing his speeds that Lyon chose such a differing tactic.

Steven Smith's Captaincy was exposed as well. With him letting the game endlessly drift rather than try something a bit different to try to gain back the ascendency. Endlessly turning to Cummins in the hope of another act of brilliance rather than tossing the ball to a few more than handy part timers. Not seeing Smith himself bowl was startling, with his leg spin a liquorice all sorts assortment containing an often unplayable delivery made all the more lethal due to its unexpectedness.

Lastly, and perhaps as pertinent as Cheteshwar Pujara for the opposite reason, Dave Warner.

As the Indian declaration became inevitable stress was etched on the Aussie Vice Captains face in the field. Knowing he had to front up and face a 8 over assault from the Indian spinners with him ruthlessly exposed so far in this series. And to be frank, anytime he has ventured away from the batting paradises of Australia with his Indian average of 23.28 on top of an away average of 35.11 pulling no punches.

Leading to him exposed once more in a 16 ball stay based on hope rather than any semblance of belief. It would never happen because of the connotations for both teams, but a real case could be made for dropping Warner and replacing him with Usman Khawaja at the top of the order for the 4th Test.

His departure, followed quickly by nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, both falling to Ravendra Jadeja left the tourists 23/2 and still 129 runs adrift from making India bat again.

All will fall on Smith and Renshaw to fend off the Indians. If either, or dread the thought for Aussie fans both go cheaply, it could get real ugly, real quick for the tourists.

A likely scenario with Jadeja already looking nigh on unplayable bowling into the footmarks setting up the possibility of even an innings victory for the hosts.

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