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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

India Finds Its Feet to Take Control in 2nd Test

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It has taken until the sixth playing day of the series, but finally India has put itself into a position of strength, negotiating a dodgy surface through the late afternoon to have a handy lead with wickets still in hand, and the advantage of not having to bat last.
  1. Australia’s tail battled hard during the morning session, but the dismissal of Starc and Wade within an over brought the innings to an end with the tourists lead standing at 87. That number is never a good one, but in this match it was a vital statistic.
  2. One still wonders why Kohli stuck with Ashwin for so many overs, and handed Jadeja less than half of those? Ashwin’s 49 overs brought figures of 2/84 while Jadeja’s 22 brought 6/63. Yes, Jadeja took down the tail in quick succession to inflate those figures, but apart from Warner it was the left armer who picked up the top order wickets. Ashwin’s frugalness with runs helped to force the issue with Australia, and the pairing of Ishant and Yadav bowled wonderfully well, but one wonders would a lead have been achievable if Jadeja had been given a bit more leeway. Easy to say from the lounge chair.
  3. India predictably went hard early to erase the deficit, and with their own share of luck managed to do so. They hit the lead for the loss of two wickets, surely something they would have happily accepted on starting the innings. Whereas the Indian seamers had been tidy but perhaps too wide of the stumps to get full measure for their efforts, Australia’s pace duo failed to take in those lessons, and also found themselves too wide of the mark. This allowed the freedom for deliveries to race through the field – middle and edged. As such the quick flow eased the early pressure on the batsmen.
  4. Australia missed some chances here, where in Pune they seemed to snaffle everything. Pujara was missed twice, both extremely tough chances early on, but they now look costly. Wade missed another chance, which no doubt the team spin doctors will put down to the tough conditions rather than the average skills of the keeper. Amongst this, Smith took another screamer, this time at slip to dismiss Rahul. Whether it is enough to offset the tough chances missed is yet to be determined.
  5. Virat Kohli. Now let’s say this straight up. He was unfortunate to be given out by Nigel Llong LBW in the first instance, with bat prominent in the mix of pads. He was then unfortunate that third umpire Kettleborough felt there was insufficient evidence available to overturn the decision. To the letter of the law, this was correct. But honestly, does anyone really think that this ‘pad first, bat second, you are out’ law is a good one? If you took the pad away in this instance, surely the ball hits bat. In other instances if the ball hits pad and then deflects to hit bat, and if the pad were to be taken away then the ball would NOT hit the bat – I can get on board with that. And of course, if Llong had gone the other way, and Australia had reviewed, it would have remained not out. Would anyone have really complained about that? Yes, Kohli was unlucky and technology did not resolve the issue. To me it looked not out, and if an Australian had been given out in that way I’d had been livid. But anyway – piss off Kohli.
  6. Pujara and Rahane have done the job India needed once erasing the deficit. They have battled and scrapped and forced each run, knowing each one of those runs is one Australia now has to find. It was tough, grinding cricket, and Australia’s bowlers, for the first time this series, started trying too hard to get wickets instead of bowling to plans to execute those wickets. They began looking at the increasing lead, and went harder to get wickets, rather than try and ignore the scoreboard and bowl to plans. That will need to change today if they are to stay in this match.
India leads by 126 runs with 6 wickets still in hand. While some will suggest the match is still at an even keel, the scales have tipped inexorably in India’s favour. Whatever their lead ends up being from this point, it will be a mountainous task for the Australian batsmen. Whereas their cautious play in the first innings was admirable under the circumstances, batting the same way in the second innings will play right into India’s hands. They will need to be positive, and keep the runs ticking over, because sooner or later the surface will come into play to try and extricate their innings. In many eyes India already have enough, but will be eyeing a 200 lead as their minimum. From there, it will take some special innings from the Australians to retain their series lead come Wednesday.
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