Australia can still draw this Test

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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

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    On a day when Indians Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha sought to slowly bat Australia into the dirt, the visiting bowlers showed fantastic resilience, refusing to wilt on day four of the third Test in Ranchi.

    Pujara and Saha are two of the most underrated players in Test cricket, the former a serenely compact first drop, the latter a slick gloveman and plucky batsman.

    Yesterday they combined for a grinding five-hour partnership that would have broken most bowling attacks. The intent from India in this innings was clear – occupy the crease for as long as possible, no matter how slow the run rate, and slowly sap the spirit of the Australians.

    They executed this strategy perfectly, keeping the tourists in the field for an extraordinary 210 overs. Yet they never managed to break the Australians. It is very, very rare that a team has to spend more than 200 overs in the field in one innings.

    Often, once a side has been bowling for beyond 130 or 140 overs things swiftly go downhill – they lose their lengths, they lose their lines, they lose their patience. Again and again I’ve seen teams bowl solidly on a flat deck for four sessions only for their energy and execution to wane and sessions five and six to become a bloodbath.

    Australia will have earned respect from the Indians yesterday by avoiding this slide and offering very few loose balls even once they had been in the field for more than 12 hours.

    Pace bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, and left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, each turned in herculean efforts which were as much a display of willpower as skill.

    Combined, that trio conceded a miserly 2.55 runs per over across the innings. This was particularly impressive given that Hazlewood had never bowled as much as 44 overs in a Test innings before, Cummins wheeled down 39 on the back of only one first-class match as a warm-up, and O’Keefe broke records as he completed a monstrous 77 overs.

    Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood reacts after dismissing South African batsman Quentin de Kock on day 1 of the third Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. Australia play South Africa in the third and final Test match tomorrow. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    It may seem strange to be praising three bowlers who formed part of an attack which conceded a total of 9-603.

    But on a lifeless deck against a commanding and deep Indian batting line-up there was not much more Cummins, Hazlewood and O’Keefe could have done. They encountered some wonderful batting.

    But they emerged from that nightmare innings in the field with their heads held high. And, crucially, their ability to keep things tight even across that marathon stint has denied India many more overs in which to force a result.

    If Australia do manage to scrap their way to a draw today it will be in no small part thanks to that trio of bowlers and their unrelenting effort. It is yet another example of a fresh, bloody-minded mentality the Australians have exhibited in this series.

    After surrendering meekly during their past three series in Asia, Australia have displayed admirable gumption with bat and ball against a dominant Indian team which started this series having not lost a match at home in four years.

    It was the dogged efforts of their batsmen in the first Test, as much as O’Keefe’s heroics, which allowed them to humiliate the Indians at Pune. Then they fought hard for the first three innings at Bangalore before their first really poor display of the series, collapsing in a heap batting last.

    But the toil of Cummins, Hazlewood and O’Keefe will count for little if Australia’s remaining batsmen do not match their dedication today.

    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 (209)

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:24am
      Brasstax said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      Unlike India, we are presently over reliant on Smith as Warner who is supposed to be our other pillar goes missing in these conditions. So unfortunately, it is once again up to Smith to single handedly save the test or just bat long enough to deny India the overs to chase whatever the final lead may be.

      It is extremely crucial that the Smith-Renshaw partnership is not separated before drinks in the middle session and Renshaw has to to be the one to be dismissed. The others simply don;t have the skill to survive against Jadeja tomorrow.

      I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 10:30pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

        And I’m delighted that you are now able to be delighted at being proved wrong. Great to see Handscomb and Marsh carry it for so long after the inexplicable double wicket early in the day.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:26am
      Perry Bridge said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      You may be delivering praise to the NSW attack – however – as much as they may have remained tidy – they went 2 sessions without a wicket and most captains around the world or through history will have at very least bowled their all-rounder for a spell to try to break things up.

      Serious questions must be asked about why Smith finds any excuse to not bowl Maxwell – or that’s how it seems. If Maxwell has popped a shoulder and can only manage spells of 2 overs in any 24 hour period then fine – you may as well admit to it now.

      And why Smith himself or even Warner didn’t trundle a couple of overs just to see if they could draw a false shot.

      O’Keefe with 77 overs. 3-199. The ONLY nice thing to say is that he didn’t go for over 200 (just). Good work Ronan – focus on economy rates. O’Keefe was ‘nice’.

      And now – Australia 2 down with guess who – Warner already gone (Khawaja for the last test?? No – Warner is untouchable for now I do suspect, but needs a serious slap around by someone to alert him to the fact he’s playing in India and he can’t just go out there and play his ‘natural game’). Australia are in serious threat of being embarrassed here (which would set up a massive 4th test with the trophy up for grabs).

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:32am
        rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        While I agree our bowlers looked ineffective, well apart from Cummins a few overs. What they did was severely tie down the run rate, which then caused India to bat well into the day. If they fell apart India may have declared before tea.

        Whereas now at least by keeping the economy rate low it has allowed the prospect of a draw.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:28am
      Brasstax said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

      There is a HUGE incentive for the remaining 8 batsmen to battle for a draw. If the scores remain level, all the pressure will be on India to win the final game in Dharamshala. On the other hand if we save this test, we can always settle for a draw in Dharamshala to retain the trophy whereas India will have to somehow win.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 10:18am
        ViratKohli said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        Aussies can win easily in Dharamshala, before the start of the series I thought that’s their best bet. If they draw today they can win the series outright.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 11:13am
          Ouch said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          Why can Oz win easily in Dharamsala?

          • March 20th 2017 @ 11:22am
            Matth said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

            Apparently it’s seam friendly. But who knows what pitch will turn up. If we somehow hold on here there will likely be a result pitch , if we lose here I’d imagine low and slow

          • March 20th 2017 @ 1:41pm
            ViratKohli said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

            Its an high altitude area where the ball will swing and pitches are not overtly dry. Fast bowlers will get more reward.
            Of course, you shouldn’t expect a grassy pitch but it will be more helpful.

            • March 20th 2017 @ 2:59pm
              Ouch said | March 20th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

              I was under the impression that at higher altitude and thinner air it would be harder to get the ball to swing. Is it humid there as well?

            • March 20th 2017 @ 3:05pm
              Arky said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

              Although without Starc, that advantage is muted.

              Let’s say the pitch is seam friendly and Australia go in with 3 frontline seamers. Who gets dropped, Lyon or SOK?

              Both had moments of total glory in the first 2 Tests, both were impotent against India on a less helpful pitch, Lyon even moreso than SOK but on the other hand Lyon is the incumbent spinner in one-spinner lineups…

              If Starc was fit one would be tempted to say “drop both, full pace battery time”.

              • March 20th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                Brian said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                I’ve been saying it for years, but Maxwell can do the exact same job as Lyon, and with a better economy rate to boot. Lyon has only really had one extremely good innings in the past two years, and we lost that test. Go with Bird over Lyon and just have Maxwell and SOK as the sole spinners.

              • Roar Guru

                March 20th 2017 @ 10:33pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

                After this test you’d have to suggest it would be Lyon. Apart from anything else he’s struggling with a finger injury, but if you are going with that sort of attack you probably need the spinner who can maintain more control and put the pressure on rather than the more attacking spinner who will go for more runs.

                And then if you want the second spinner and you do throw the ball to Maxwell, he is an offspinner, so the combination works better when you have SOK as the main spinner than Lyon which gives you two offspinners. Especially to a very right-handed batting lineup.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 3:15am
              Bakkies said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:15am | ! Report

              Given Australia’s record at the Wanderers and Centurion the conditions will suit the quicks

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:31am
      Brasstax said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      Plus a tied series will be a staggering blow to Kohli’s ego to see his supposedly superior team being unable to force the issue against supposedly hopeless visitors. Will teach Kohli and the BCCI several lessons in humility.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Basil said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        In answer to your last statement …. Not possible

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:51am
      Rob JM said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      I think a draw here would be alomost worth more than the win in the first test. Let’s hope our batsmen can do it.
      Hopefully someone has given Behrendorf a call up. We could use him in the third test. We probably should call up Sayers two and give all the bowlers a rest in the last test and go with Bird, Sayer, Behrendorf and Swepson.
      (Ok a little crazy)

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:17am
        Perry Bridge said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        #Rob JM

        Probably not that crazy.

        I certainly appears as though India have worked out O’Keefe and Lyon (probably not that hard to do).

        Hazlewood perhaps too – without a pitch playing devilish tricks – has been worked out.

        Could do worse than change it all around but that would be seen as a panic move and wouldn’t get done.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 9:28am
          rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          Kind of like the Aussie batsmen have worked out Ashwin.

          The only one who will cause trouble is Jadeja, and the reason being foot marks.

          If this series has shown anything, it’s that the Indian’s spinners are not miles ahead of the pack – they need conditions to suit to be dangerous just like any other attack.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 11:19am
          jameswm said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          Yeah, the worked out Lyon. They worked out that you have to take all bounce from the pitch, and he is less effective without Starc’s size 15 footmarks to bowl at.

          • March 20th 2017 @ 11:47am
            rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            As is Ashwin.

            The only one who has been causing serious trouble is Jadeja, and it’s not hard to work out why.

          • March 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm
            Brian said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

            Everyone has worked out Lyon: get on the back foot and work him off your hip with the spin. He has absolutely no variation.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 10:40am
        qwetzen said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Rob JM said: “Hopefully someone has given Behrendorf a call up. We could use him in the third test.”

        It’s probably a tad late for that Rob…

        And I believe that CA had a plan to send Pattinson over for T4, but that’s been dropped now that NSW has missed out on the Shield Final.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 12:52pm
          Nudge said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

          It would be a massive risk to play Hazlewood and Cummins next test. Buggered if I know what they are going to do. Aus have virtually no hope of holding out today in my opinion. About as much chance as what we had in chasing that 180 last test which was about 10 per cent

          • Roar Guru

            March 20th 2017 @ 11:00pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

            It’s hard to tell. It was a marathon innings, but because it was only a single innings it does sort of limit the damage a bit. For instance, Yadav actually bowled 2 more overs than Hazlewood across the course of the test match, and Jadeja bowled 93.3 overs across the two innings, a full 16.3 overs more than SOK.

            Sure, that was split into two halves with a rest in the middle, but the Aussie bowlers have also had an extra days rest with them finishing on day 4 while the Indian bowlers were bowling on day 5. So it’s hard to know if that one marathon innings will impact them seriously more than bowling as many, or more overs split across 2 innings and with one less days rest will for the Indian bowlers.

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 10:36pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

          Apparently Pattinson specifically asked not to be considered for the Indian tour. After several failed comeback attempts where he’d possibly gone too hard too soon he didn’t want to do that again here, but just wanted to finish off the shield.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 7:01am
      qwetzen said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Has any journo actually asked Smith why he won’t bowl Maxwell? If so, what was the response?

      Smith did badly yesterday. There always seemed to be gaps in his fields, a couple of DRS referrals stank of desperation and of course his failure to use Maxwell or anyone else has probably wrecked our quicks, and possibly the slows as well, for the 4th Test.

      With Lyon’s finger being dodgy, will Agar or Swepson get The Nod for T4?

      If Marsh and Handscome get reasonable scores, yes I know it’s unlikely, especially Sean, will Warner be dropped? One of that three will definitely go for UK.

      For Oz to survive today it’s going to take a major contribution from Smith as I suspect that our array of lefties will contribute about as much to the national good as a backbencher.

      And I’d like to give the Foxtel IQ3 box a mention here. It’s the worst piece of technology I’ve ever bought. And I’ve been to China a few times. Repeated ‘Signal Lost’ failures yesterday practically destroyed the recordings.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:04am
        BurgyGreen said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Lehmann said Maxwell probably could’ve bowled more overs, but he supported Smith’s decision to keep bowling his best spinners.

        Despite being a die-hard Maxwell fan, I’m not sure he would’ve made a significant difference. He probably should’ve been tried longer, at least to give the others a rest, but for me Smith’s major tactical mistake was his defensive field. Easy singles on tap and the Indians were more than happy to take two or three runs off each over.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 1:51pm
        bilo said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        Maybe Smith had another one of his brain fades, we might need him to take the concussion test he’s so dopey sometimes.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 2:53pm
        A keeper said | March 20th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

        I like smith as a player and captivating but not bowling Maxwell more was crazy. Im not a great maxwell fan but his econmy rate was better than Lyons. So surely a couple more wouldn’t have hurt? Would love love love to see Smiddy bowl a couple of leggies.

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