Aussie spinners freeze India’s march with a big 333 run win

Rajat Kain

Three days ago not even a die-hard Australian cricket supporter would have given his team a chance against the World no. 1 India, who was on a 19-match unbeaten streak. But the unimaginable happened, as it does often in Cricket.

16 years ago, it was India who had stopped Steve Waugh all-conquering Aussies in a sun-soaked Kolkata. And today, it was Steve Smith’s men who had the sun shining on their shoulders.

Stephen Norman John O’Keefe, the slow left-arm orthodox bowler, may well turn out to be the new find of Australia. But that will have to wait till the conclusion of this four-match Test series.

PUNE:Australian bowler Steve O'Keefe celebrates the wicket of Indian batsman during the first test match in Pune, Feb 25, 2017. Photo - PTI

PUNE:Australian bowler Steve O’Keefe celebrates the wicket of Indian batsman during the first test match in Pune, Feb 25, 2017.
Photo – PTI

But today, the boyish-looking 32-year-old was the architect of Australia’s brilliant victory over the host in the first test at Pune, clinching back to back six wickets giving away just 35 runs in each Indian inning and earning Man of the Match tropy.

If it were an English language class, perhaps Indian batting was the best example to draw analogy of words like ‘continuity’ and ‘mirror Image’.

Following its disastrous 105 in the first innings, the World No. 1 Test side folded for another early 100s. This time for 2 more runs at 107 loosing the test by massive 333 runs.

Just like the first innings, the collapse led to 6 wickets falling for paltry 18 runs. In the first innings, 7 wickets tumbled for mere 11 runs. Though, only difference was that in the second innings Indian batting looked shaky, wobbly and shorter of breath right from the start chasing a mammoth 441.

And just like the first innings, openers failed and so did captain Virat Kohli, the man who before this game had amassed runs at the average of 80 in his last 13 tests.

Pune: Australia's captain Steve Smith celebrates his century during Third day of the first cricket test match against India in Pune, Feb 25, 2017. Photo - PTI

Pune: Australia’s captain Steve Smith celebrates his century during Third day of the first cricket test match against India in Pune, Feb 25, 2017.
Photo – PTI

It was Steve O’Keefe, playing his fifth test, who led from the front giving Aussies the first breakthrough at 10 sending Murali Vijay. Soon another openere KL Rahul was consumed by Nathan Lyon in the front. In between, India ended up spending both its Umpire Decision Reviews on the two openers.

But the moment of the match was Virat Kohli getting castled misreading the straighter one from O’Keefe completely and not offering the shot.

From then on it was Australia all the way with Nathan Lyon too joining the party picking up three more wickets, and taking his tally to 4 for 53.

Earlier in the day, Australia resumed at their overnight score of 143 for 4, with solid 298 runs ahead.

Steve Smith, who got reprieve on few occasions due to poor Indian fielding, was an otherwise picture of composure playing Indian slow bowlers – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – on a very spinner friendly wicket. An aggressive batsman, he is, used his feet well to loft and hit the bowlers on his way to a very well made century, his first in India.

Smith got a good support from Mitchell Marsh, Mathew Wade and Mitchell Starc in the end to push the lead past unassailable 400.