#INDvAUS: Australia boss India in India – Captain Kohli loses his first Test as skipper at home as Smith & Co thrash hosts by 333 runs; Oz take 1-0 lead in 4-Test series
Australian players celebrate after winning the first Test against India at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Saturday. (Below) Steve O’Keefe exults after dismissing Virat Kohli (AFP)
It was bound to happen. It’s the way it happened that was jaw-dropping, though.
After being unbeaten in 20 Test matches in India since 2012, a little defeat was expected. After flying high in nine Tests in this home season, a little downward curve was expected.
But instead of a dip, it was a free fall.
India were handed a crushing 333-run thrashing by Australia on the third day to take a 1-0 lead in the opening Test of the four-match series at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Saturday.
After bossing every team that dropped by the Indian shores since last year to challenge them in the longest format, the Indians were bossed over.
The Aussies defied all odds, expectations and analysis to become the unlikely pit stop in Team India’s Test circuit, shutting up all the pre-series predictions of a whitewash.
So hapless were the hosts and so dominant were the visitors that Australia’s bowling unit needed 50 fewer balls than in the first innings to inflict another round of knockout on the Indian batsmen.
The punching weapon was the same, Steve O’Keefe (6/35), as the hosts were bowled out for 107 in the second innings to go with 105 in the first.
If India’s first innings was an aberration, the second was abysmal on an equally abysmal pitch here. The pitch, though, had lesser demons in it than in the Indian batters’ minds.
Set an improbably victory target of 441 after Australia captain Steve Smith played one of his best Test innings of 109, the Indian batting display in the second outing was as gutless as in the first.
It seemed none of the Indian batsmen reflected upon their show on Friday. Their dismissals a day later had similar key words: inconsistent levels of application against consistent bowling.
The rot started earlier than on Friday, though. In the fifth over of the Indian innings, Murali Vijay played for a lot of turn off O’Keefe, but the ball skidded on to his front pad. In the next over of Nathan Lyon, Vijay’s opening partner Rahul did exactly the opposite: didn’t play enough for turn as he went deep inside his crease to be trapped LBW as well.
The Australians didn’t even need a Mitchell Starc this time to instill doubts in the Indian’s minds.
But there were doubts, and plenty of them.
Captain Virat Kohli, who pounces on to play deliveries even five stumps outside the off, shouldered arms to a straight one from O’Keefe. Yes, Kohli left a straight ball.
The skipper sat on his left knee for a few seconds, looking behind at his castled off stump a bit flummoxed. The Aussies jumped around like little kids, probably knowing they had the match in the bag at 47/3.
Ajinkya Rahane chipped a ball straight to Lyon at covers like a fielding coach would to his boys during catching drills. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin plonked their right foot out to negate the vicious turn, but the ball harmlessly went straight on to their pads.
Wriddhiman Saha once again looked completely lost with the willow in hand, and so did Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav.
And as the Australians fast-tracked the drama with the final wicket of Yadav just after tea, every member of their team came running immediately from their respective fielding positions. They embraced each other, formed a tight circle, and refused to break it for a couple of seconds.
The Indians would have felt a sense of familiarity in those scenes. They’ve been there, done that in 10 Tests out of the 13 since 2016.
But here, they were watching the opposition forming the huddle from the dressing room. It must have hurt, it must have stung, it must have felt different.
It should, for the performance, too, was different.
No. of games after which India have lost a Test match at home, last going down against England in 2012 in Kolkata. Since then, they have won 17 Tests and drawn three
No. of runs India scored in total in both the innings (105 and 107), their lowest aggregate at home in a Test in which they have lost all 20 wickets
No. of consecutive Test centuries Steve Smith has India against India in Test cricket. He had each a ton in each of four Tests in India’s 2014-15 tour of Australia
DID YOU KNOW?
India’s 333-run loss was their second biggest defeat margin in a home Test and fourth largest overall. Their biggest defeat has also come against Australia, by 342 runs in Nagpur in 2004-05
Steve O’Keefe’s match figures of 12/70 are the second best by any visiting bowler in India after Ian Botham’s 13/106 at the Wankhede in 1979-80
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
Australia get lead of 440
India eye quick wickets, and get Mitchell Marsh early. But Steve Smith continues from where he left off on Friday, looking at ease and brining up a brilliant century. Wickets fall around him, but Mitchell Starc’s lusty blows takes their lead to 440.
At Lunch: Australia 285 all out in 87 overs
Indian batsmen fail again
Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are dismissed off consecutive overs, while Virat Kohli leaves a straight ball. Steve O’Keefe again spins a web on the middle order, sending back Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin and Wridhimann Saha cheaply.
At Tea: India 99/6 in 28.3 overs (C Pujara 31*)
O’Keefe removes Cheteshwar Pujara second ball after the tea break. Nathan Lyon then comes into action, getting Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma. Jayant Yadav is the last man to fall as Australia wrap India up for 107 to inflict a huge defeat.