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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Even Day Leaves Test and Series in the Balance

Day One at Ranchi was an unfamiliar feel. The pitch played fine. Australia's number six scored runs. India's spinners didn't halt progress. Australia almost felt on top. Day Two ended with a much more familiar feel to the series, and while the result isn't set yet, there is an air of inevitability creeping back into the contest.

  1. Glenn Maxwell. He got to that century that he craved, and the innings as a whole was terrific, and helped rescue Australia from a grim position to a good position. Today the runs he scored were more of the flashy variety that we are used to from the Big Show. He wasn't as secure at the crease, he was looser in his technique. His century was a flashing cut shot just wide of gully. He was dismissed a couple of overs later to a loose shot, but at least not an audacious one. We celebrate the innings, but await whether it is the start of something big or just a false dawn.
  2. Steve Smith. Like yesterday, there is little that can be added. He batted through the innings to remain not out, guiding his team to a first innings total of 451 that was a necessity for Australia's chances in this match. 
  3. It was Ravinda Jadeja who again forced his way through the batting order, finding the ball more grip and rip than on the first day. On these types of surfaces he shows why he is so successful, his accuracy depriving any runs being scored, and when the ball misbehaves he tends to strike. On the other hand, it was interesting to note the genuine lack of threat that was evident from Ashwin. Certainly the pitch was a major part of this, as was shown by the same lack of penetration by the Australian spinners. But with no success, the swagger was noticeably absent.
  4. The return of Pat Cummins to Test cricket could not have gone too much better. He was swift, he was accurate, and he showed all the tricks he has learned in six years. To be honest, it was wonderful to watch. No matter what thoughts I may have had on selection issues leading to his recall, it was great to see that mop of black hair and steely blue eyes ripping the ball down the wicket in a Test match again. He claimed the only Indian wicket to fall, by mixing short balls and full balls and slower balls. Today will be a sterner test (no pun intended) but the opening spells were a terrific start.
  5. I still believe Nathan Lyon is bowling too fast to be truly effective. Yes, his 8-fa in the 2nd Test would seem to show I don't know what I'm talking about, but that was a different surface. Surely here, where currently the only problem is the lower bounce of the wicket, it would be beneficial to try and beat the batsman in the air, giving the ball a bit of flight and variety in speed.
  6. For the first time this series, the Indian batsmen must be licking their lips. Day 3 can be their day to show their fans that they are ready to seize the initiative back and put the Australians to the sword. Vijay and Pujara look set last night, and their middle order partners must be looking forward to batting on this surface. Without the threat of massive spin and variable bounce from the Australian spinners, the batsmen can again treat them with the disdain they tend to feel for them. If they cannot do that today, they will have some issues in forcing a victory in the time remaining.
  7. Virat Kohli again did not appear on the field during Day 2. For some reason however, the injury he sustained to his shoulder on Day One has been deemed as an 'exterior' injury, which means he does not have to serve a time penalty and not bat higher than number seven in the order. This seems somewhat extraordinary, given the fact that he had to go for an MRI and that it is said that he has ligemnt damage. I don't recall any external ligaments on the human body. Once again, if this was anyone else would it be allowed? All it looks like from the outside is that the Indians have decided that their best chance to have their captain get back into scoring runs is to ensure he didn't have to field for a day and a half while Australia scored 450 runs, instead drinking tea in air conditioned comfort.
Not for the first time this series, today is set up to be a beauty, one that will be of great influence in this series. As an Australian, it could turn out to be tough as everything is set up for India's batting to dominate the day. However, the Australians bowling this series has continued to surprise, and if they can find a way to get into the middle order which hasn't fired in this series, then perhaps once again they can find a way to take the initiative. Pat Cummins taking 10 wickets would be a great start.

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