Bowler’s dream, batsman’s nightmare

The pitch crafted for the first Test was a minefield, following which the pitch in Bengaluru was the centre of intense discussions leading into the second Test. The wicket in Bengaluru was certainly better than the one in Pune, but provided very little respite to the batsmen. India were 0-1 down in the series and a loss in this Test would allow Australia the luxury of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy. For the very first time in the home season, India were under immense pressure. A lot of it was visible in their first innings when they decided to bat after winning the toss. Barring KL Rahul, all the other batsmen looked nervy and anxious. Once again, spin got the better of them! Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe seemed to have swapped fingers before the game, as the off-spinner grabbed a career-best 8/50. Rahul held the innings together, ensuring that the score was closer to 200 than a hundred. When India were bowled out for 189, one would have felt Australia had the early advantage in the game.

The Aussies got off to a fine start in their innings. Matt Renshaw continued his impressive form and his skill against spin was on exhibition yet again. No easy runs were on offer, as the Indian pacers raised their game, bowling their hearts out and found the right areas on the pitch. Australia’s cautious approach led to a paucity of runs but kept their wickets intact. Although Steven Smith fell cheaply, Shaun Marsh kept the ship sailing for Australia and the side was guided till Stumps on Day 2 by Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc. The third morning brought better fortune for India who bowled the Aussies out in the first session itself, with Ravindra Jadeja picking up a 6-wicket haul.

The Indian batsmen had the towering responsibility of bettering their previous effort. KL Rahul led the way once again, playing freely. His opening stand with Abhinav Mukund gave India the momentum and their batsmen the confidence they so dearly needed. Once Rahul was dismissed, Pujara and Rahane took the reins and stitched the highest partnership of the series, seeing off Day 3 without any further casualties. The team’s score surpassed 200 and the lead stood at 126.

As has been the case in the series thus far, nothing was ever constant for the batsmen on either side. India were looking to set a meaty target for the Aussies, but the new ball slashed their hopes. Starc and Hazlewood ripped through the Indian middle and lower-order in no time. Once Ajinkya Rahane got out, the rest of the batsmen followed suit. Pujara was dismissed in the 90’s for the first time in his Test career. Australia were left frustrated when Wriddhiman Saha & Ishant Sharma whiled away their time, taking the lead to 187 before the hosts got bowled out. Hazlewood finished with his career-best figures of 6/67.

With 188 to win, all three results were possible – a win for India, Australia or a tie! India would have liked to set a target of around 250, but 188 wasn’t going to be an easy target to chase down. The Aussies looked to begin positively against some tight bowling. Renshaw couldn’t last long and Warner perished, trying to keep up the scoring rate. Smith came in with a positive frame of mind and looked to use his feet regularly against the spinners. The surge was stalled by an inspiring spell from Umesh Yadav, who trusted the unevenness of the pitch to fetch him wickets. The half centurion from the previous innings, Shaun Marsh left a ball, only to be hit flush on his pad. He was sent back and unfortunately for him, Smith advised against reviewing the decision.

There was no looking back for Kohli & his men, who were pumped up and didn’t shy away from giving many of the Australian batsmen send-offs. Ravichandran Ashwin wasted little time in cleaning up Australia’s lower order and India won the game by 75 runs. The series is wide open after India’s emphatic comeback. Both the teams have raised the benchmark for the remaining two games. There have been feisty altercations between players, which could make the series even more enthralling. So far, we’ve had two games where the bowlers dominated the batsmen who were scurrying to score runs. This time as well, we may need to set aside the notion that cricket is a batsman’s game for a bit.

Stats Highlights:

  • Ashwin became the fastest to claim 25 5-fers in Tests.
  • 4 different bowlers picked up 6 or more wickets, one in each innings – a first in Test history
  • Nathan Lyon’s 8/50 are the best bowling figures in an innings by a visiting spinner in India.

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