O’Keefe, Handscomb script a dramatic day for Australia

Rajat Kain

Five balls into the day two of first test, Australia’s last pair folded adding just four runs to the overnight score of 256. Indian batting began with flourish but it took just two overs and two individuals in the middle of the story to turn the narrative.

Over number 15: As India looked steady at 44 for loss of one, Australia’s quickie Mitchel Starc came up with a beauty for which Cheteshwar Pujara had no answer. It pitched just before the good length, jumped, moved away slightly and took the outside edge. One feels comfortable seeing those deliveries on Television set than to play it.

Two balls later, the in-form skipper, Virat Kohli saw his nick to an away-going one caught effortlessly by the first slip. Suddenly, Indian batting appeared to look wobbly.

Pune: Australian bowler Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of Indian batsman Virat Kohli during the first test match played in Pune, Feb 24, 2017. Photo - PTI

Pune: Australian bowler Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of Indian batsman Virat Kohli during the first test match played in Pune, Feb 24, 2017.
Photo – PTI

And as it looked that recovery is on the anvil with KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane adding 50 runs for the fourth wicket, two individuals – spinner Steve O’Keefe and close in catcher Peter Handscomb — got down to script a dream narrative for Australia.

Over number 33: KL Rahul looked set on 64 and Team India on 94 for 3 wickets in 32 overs. He jumped out on the second ball to slog O’Keefe out of long off but gave a sitter to Warner much inside the boundary. Two balls and one run later, Peter Handscomb pulled off a brilliant one-handed catch at the second slip just centimetres above the ground to send back Rahane. And two more balls later, Saha gave a simple catch to Steve Smith on the first slip.

After the end of over the score line read 95 for the loss of 6 wickets and the narrative had changed. But both O’Keefe and Handscomb were not over yet.

Pune: Australian bowler Steve O'Keefe celebrates his six wickets during the first test match played against India in Pune, Feb 24, 2017. Photo - PTI

Pune: Australian bowler Steve O’Keefe celebrates his six wickets during the first test match played against India in Pune, Feb 24, 2017.
Photo – PTI

Two balls later, Ravichandran Ashwin, much of an all-rounder than a bowler who can bat, too was dismissed but it wouldn’t have been possible without another blinder of a catch by Handscomb who made no mistake in timing his instinct as Ashwin’s nick first bobbed his boots and flew for few seconds. Those moments were enough for the 25-year-old batter Handscomb to weave an act of awe.

Soon Jayant Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav were consumed by O’Keefe and in-form Team India was bundled for mere 105, a lengthy 155 runs behind Australia’s 260.

Playing his first ever game in India, Steve O’Keefe bagged six wickets for 35 runs and stamped his play on the picth that is considered advantageous for the hosts.

Pune: Indian bowler R Ashwin with captain Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Australian batsman, Feb 24, 2017. Photo - PTI

Pune: Indian bowler R Ashwin with captain Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Australian batsman, Feb 24, 2017.
Photo – PTI

As Australia returned to bat, it was Ravichandran Ashwin who once again gave India quick breakthrough. In fact, it is because of Ashwin, India is still in the game.

Warner pressed the gas right from the start, reverse sweeping and conventionally sweeping Ashwin in the first over of its second innings. But Ashwin came back and trapped him in the front in the last ball of the over.

Soon Shaun Marsh, opening in the place of unwell Matthew Renshaw, too was send back by Ashwin at the score of 26 followed by dangerous looking Handscomb as the score read 61. Renshaw came back to bat and began to regain touch before getting dismissed by Yadav for well-made 31.

At the end of the day two, Australians have raced ahead with a combined lead of 298 runs and their skipper Steve Smith standing tall at 69.

Though the game still has three days to go, the ebb and flow is steadily turning away from the home team, who are unbeaten in their last 19 matches.