Australia and India set to go down to the wire

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Clever tactics and some dynamic pace bowling from Pat Cummins helped Australia keep India at bay on day three of the third Test yesterday.

    On a docile Ranchi deck offering minimal assistance to pace or spin, Australia had to find innovative ways to challenge the home side’s commanding batting line-up.

    Although there were stages at which Australia’s bowlers tired, most notably the last hour before tea, overall it was a wonderfully patient, disciplined and persistent bowling display.

    In similar circumstances, England’s bowlers wilted repeatedly in their recent five-Test series in India.

    In the final Test of that series England batted first and made 477 only to be trampled on by the Indians as they racked up 7-759 in reply. But, as we’ve seen this month, there is a significant gulf in class between the attacks of England and Australia.

    Apart from champion quick Stuart Broad, no English bowler managed to consistently tie down the Indian batsmen. Australia, meanwhile, have been able to take control in the field via accurate, frugal spells from Josh Hazlewood, Steve O’Keefe and, in this Test, Cummins.

    Australia blanketed the Indian batsmen in the opening session yesterday. Hazlewood, Cummins, O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon each maintained tight lines and lengths, allowing captain Steve Smith to set attacking fields.

    Australia conceded just 73 runs from 30.4 overs in that session and, while they grabbed only one wicket, they were denied another by an umpiring blunder.

    steve-okeefe-australia-cricket-2017

    O’Keefe and Lyon were used as stock bowlers, with Cummins and Hazlewood the strike options. Hazlewood found some nice reverse swing but it was the younger quick who was most threatening, just as he had been on day two.

    As I wrote in the lead-up to this Test, Cummins or James Pattinson were far better suited to partnering Hazlewood than Jackson Bird, who is very similar in style to Hazlewood.

    On a pitch as unresponsive as this one, it is of great value to have a powerful, intimidating quick like Cummins, Pattinson or Mitchell Starc, who is out injured. Not only do they add crucial variety to the attack but they also have a way of belying the nature of the pitch to produce startling deliveries.

    Starc did this in Sri Lanka last year, Pattinson in India in 2013, and Cummins has achieved it here in Ranchi. Given the lifeless state of the pitch it is quite remarkable he managed to get three wickets via short balls. When he bent his back Cummins was able to get the ball to leap startlingly towards the throats of the Indians.

    It was this lift which undid KL Rahul late on day two and which accounted for both Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin yesterday. In between those latter two wickets Cummins knocked over Virat Kohli, enticing an airy drive at an outswinger from the Indian skipper.

    Through all this, classy Indian first drop Cheteshwar Pujara defied the Australians and, after a slow start, switched gears to score freely in the second session.

    With Australia’s pacemen presenting the clearest danger, Smith instructed O’Keefe to bowl over the wicket and aim outside the leg stump of Cheteshwar Pujara, who continually padded balls away.

    What on the surface appeared to be a defensive tactic in fact had an offensive edge to it. Australia managed to keep Pujara down one end of the pitch while their quicks targeted his more vulnerable partners. Pujara looked as though he could bat for months so it was a cunning ploy by the Australians and one which helped secure the wicket of Ashwin.

    As well as Australia bowled and as sharp as their tactics were, Pujara still stands between them and a distinct advantage in this Test. With two days to go, this Test is beautifully poised.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • March 19th 2017 @ 4:44am
      Nanda said | March 19th 2017 @ 4:44am | ! Report

      Pujara was criticised for batting too slow. Infact he and Vijay were dropped for a test in WI due to low strike rates. Hope Kohli and Kumble now realize the value of a non flashy opener and one drop. This is test cricket batting at its best.

      • March 19th 2017 @ 2:31pm
        doogs said | March 19th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

        good point. I thought he was superb. He is still there. Some people just want everything their own way. He bats too slow, he bats too fast bla bla

    • March 19th 2017 @ 4:47am
      lara said | March 19th 2017 @ 4:47am | ! Report

      Its good to see cummins taking the key wickets ,as i said yesterday that he is the real deal and hes only going to get better..Lets hope his body holds up and he gets to play more games for australia..It seems the game is evenly poised & a draw is looming,unless if the indians catipulate cheaply in the session..

      • March 19th 2017 @ 8:59am
        Nudge said | March 19th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Way to early to be calling the draw in my opinion. If I was a bookie I’d set odds something like this. Aus 2.50 India 2.50 draw 2.50. The draw is the favourite with the bookies but they are always wrong with cricket betting. First hour critical today, if Aus can take these 4 wickets and have a lead of 40 or 50 things are looking good. If Pujara and Saha get through the hour they could be looking at 500, and that spells danger.

      • March 19th 2017 @ 1:58pm
        Matth said | March 19th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

        This pitch might be like Adelaide, where it always gave up lots of first innings runs, but then deteriorated and game could move very quickly. We still may be thinking draw ha,f way through the day today, but there is actually plenty of time left.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 4:50am
      lara said | March 19th 2017 @ 4:50am | ! Report

      pujara is really playing tht steve smith kinda role

    • March 19th 2017 @ 7:30am
      qwetzen said | March 19th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Day 3 Strays.

      I felt for the Oz spinners yesterday, especially Lyon. After years of having giant-hoofed Mitchells tearing the pitch apart, yesterday Lyon & O’Keefe were visibly depressed at having to deliver ball after ball into an unblemished surface to India’s battery of right handers. What this mean in the immediate future is that Oz’s legion of lefties have ‘extra’ rough to contend with. Hmmm. And in the long term, if the poms have a predominance of RHBs in their top order then Behrendorf and Starc have had their selection odds shortened.

      Apparently a tabloid firestorm out of India today is Maxwell mocking Kholi by clutching his shoulder after a piece of fielding. There some rampant hypocrisy on display here as it was all Good Fun when Shikar Dharwan did it to Watson in an ODI in India a few years back. Unfortunately I can’t find the broadcaster’s clip as that was nauseating. As soon as the mocking was done Team India cheerleader Gavaskar leapt in to shout; “You don’t know what’s gone on before that!” and effectively blamed Watson without actually saying why.
      Anyway; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYV0B7jg5jE

      Bowling has been a mercurial occupation in this series. It seems that all the Oz bowlers have returned either very good or very bad figures. Odd.

      Wonderful seeing Kholi fail again. And despite what some writers say, I thought it was just a straight ball.

      The volume on the teev is now being turned down while Clarke is on air. Squeaky, humourless, little know-it-all. I don’t think he’s aware that Shastri is winding him up on occasion.

      I don’t know how we’re going to get Pujara out. Drone strike looks the best option.

      And all the while the tension builds. What a fascinating game.

      • March 19th 2017 @ 7:37am
        Jameswm said | March 19th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

        We did get Pujara out. He was either the incorrect DRS call off SOK, or the one off Lyon a ball or two later that we couldn’t eview because we wrongly lost our review.

        Still, we bowled with character. If we can get them out for 400 odd, then we might be able to score some runs on day 4 before the wicket hopefully falls apart on day 5.

        Also, wasn’t Jadeja mocking Smith’s antics during the 2nd test?

        • March 19th 2017 @ 7:51am
          qwetzen said | March 19th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          Jameswm said: “Also, wasn’t Jadeja mocking Smith’s antics during the 2nd test?”

          Dunno about Jadeja, but certainly Instant Sharma was. Which was a very bad idea, as the old SBS Lady used to say; “You are a very ugly man.” and pulling faces just made it worse.

          But to be fair, mocking someone’s batting or bowling actions isn’t anywhere near as bad an offence on the Etiquette No-Nos list as mocking an injury.

          • March 19th 2017 @ 8:24am
            Rob JM said | March 19th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

            The worst was when Kohli came out and clapped the failed review! We all know how Karma treated the last round!

          • Roar Rookie

            March 19th 2017 @ 9:36am
            cinque said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

            Fast Forward

            “Victor, you are very unattractive man”

            Jane Turner (from Kath & Kim) to Peter Moon.

            • March 19th 2017 @ 10:02am
              qwetzen said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Ta.

          • March 19th 2017 @ 10:52am
            Shiftyxr said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            ” victor you very unattractive man” I think was the piss take on fast forward.

      • March 19th 2017 @ 12:29pm
        Swanny said | March 19th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        Clarke has always been a suck up know it all. His personality grates . Sound down for me too

        • March 19th 2017 @ 1:40pm
          Basil said | March 19th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          Pretty sure he’d be applying to be an Indian national soon.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 10:04am
      BurgyGreen said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      Most likely heading for a draw I reckon. We need to bowl them out early in the first session, then bat briskly until stumps. We will also need the pitch to break up before then.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 19th 2017 @ 11:16am
      El Loco said | March 19th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Can’t believe how many days and sessions have seemed to be the pivotal one in this series, incredible. Tomorrow shapes up as the next “most pivotal” in a long line of them.

      Plenty of strain on us from here, India could yet pile on the runs and leave us effectively batting last, or we could build a lead but with pressure on how aggressively to declare.

      Or a bunch of other stuff could happen too…

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