Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Australia Huff, Puff, but fail to Blow India's House Down

The greatest storyline of this Test should be on the unforgiving nature of Test Cricket created by a brilliant pitch.

One that allowed only the sincerely skilled and strong in mind individuals to excel along with putting the magnifying glass on the calibre and resolve of both units.

In truth, both pitches in the series have been a compliment to India.

For their prospects would have been better served in preparing 'Corporate Roads' that would have favoured their team and its strength perfectly while eliminating much of Australia's.

Sadly, much of the focus will be on the pitches being substandard along with the hysteria over the onfield behaviour of many. With the chief focus on Australian skipper Steven Smith, who to be frank brought the game into disrepute by looking up for guidance from his support team to decide whether to go to DRS.

He downplayed it as a 'brain fade' when pressed on it afterwards which showed scant regard to its disrespect to the spirit of the game. One that if he wasn't such a big name figure in the game as well as the ICC having any semblance of credibility would see him get a 3 match Test ban.

On the topic of behaviour, India's Skipper Virat Kohli who for much of the match resembled a 2 year old in desperate need of a diaper change should also be told very clearly to pull his fucking head in.

A one match Test ban or suspended sentence would sufficiently silence him

The Game 

In the lead into day three, I posted the possibility of India facing an innings defeat with Australia leading by 46 going into the day with 4 wickets in hand

Their comeback to win the match highlights the fact that they are a very good team as well as one having real resolve in the face of adversity. Factor in the result was achieved with their batting kingpin Virat Kholi failing in both innings as well as them going into the match missing two pillars from their team in Murali Vijay and Mohammad Shami and their win deserves the highest respect.

The innings of KP Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were of the highest calibre in the 2nd innings scored under real pressure. The youngster Rahul was a stand out with his balance and poise and if not for a freakish catch by Steven Smith at slip looked so masterful that a big score seemed an inevitability.

Key in all three digs were their renewed tactics to counter the Aussie spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steven O'Keefe who entered the innings with a combined 234/26 in the series so far. Crucially they were limited to 118/2 to allow the series changing fightback.

It set up a lead of 188 for the Indians to defend and was made to look like Everest when Ravi Ashwin with his off spin sliced through the Australian batting like a hot knife through butter.

From the Australian viewpoint, they failed to last the distance with a noticeably different approach to batting in their second innings key.

Their first innings displayed real awareness of the game situation realising plenty of time was left in the game allowing them to duly grind out a decisive score. In the second, despite the growing difficulty of the pitch they diverted from this and seemed to be in a rush to get to the finish line despite two full days being left in the game.

Sense would have dictated similar caution married with the discreet proactivity they had displayed previously in lieu of the pitch.

The collapse also highlighted the openers for Australia and their relative meaning in the conditions

Matt Renshaw has been superlative all tour and his dismissal for 8 in the second innings was pivotal, robbing the Team of its top order rock that has been so influential in grinding the Indian bowlers along with providing a perfect foil for others.

After this Test, Warner now averages 24.41 after playing 6 Tests in India. It is interesting that few if any have put the focus on his failures in these conditions. Justifiably press has been given to dropping Australia's 'specialist fieldsman' Mitch Marsh and bringing in Usman Khawaja at 5. I would be almost tempted to put Warner at 5 away from the new ball and have Usman Khawaja open with Renshaw along with rolling the dice on Glenn Maxwell at 6.

The batting unit going forward is a huge worry but the bowling has been superb. The pace duo of Starc and Hazelwood proving once more they are the best in Test cricket and the spinners stunning all with their threat. Hazelwood's 6/67 in India's 2nd innings was some of the best bowling from a fast bowler one could hope to see.

Going Forward 

After this win and the momentum it represents it will be very hard to prevent India from winning the next two Tests. Particularly with fine players in Vijay and Shami to be added to their 11 along with Virat Kohli sure to awaken from his uncharacteristic batting slumber.

The strength of the Aussie bowling gives it a chance but the downside is the fragility in their batting undermining their good efforts

All will be revealed in the 3rd Test starting in Ranchi on the 16th

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