Plucky Australia banish demons of 2016

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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

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    The ‘old’ Australia would today be nursing their wounds after a routine capitulation under pressure in the third Test against India. But that flighty Australian team has not been sighted since the debacle at Hobart in November.

    That disgraceful innings defeat in the second Test against South Africa was Australia’s fifth loss on the trot and triggered sweeping changes to the Australian line-up.

    Five of the cricketers who played crucial roles in Australia’s rousing performance at Ranchi were not present at Hobart – young batsmen Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw, veteran Shaun Marsh, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and pace prodigy Pat Cummins.

    Renshaw and Handscomb have quickly become key members of the top six as Australia have won five Tests and lost only one since Hobart. Maxwell set up Australia with a brilliant ton in the first innings at Ranchi before Marsh led them to a draw yesterday with a wonderfully calm and composed knock of 53 from 197 balls.

    Australia Test player Glenn Maxwell raises his bat

    In between that pair of fine innings, Cummins bowled with tremendous intensity, perseverance and skill, helping to ensure India’s batsmen could not sprint to a match-winning total. It was indicative of the impressive development of this Australian side since Hobart that they got pivotal contributions from a range of players.

    To scrap to a draw in India with minimal or no input from mainstays David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon is a great sign for Australia. In salvaging this Test they provided further evidence of a new, steely resolve. Australia perfected the practice of the meek surrender during their five consecutive losses last year.

    That’s why, even after their fighting efforts in this series, it still came as a surprise that they managed to wrangle a draw under immense pressure yesterday. The Australians of old would barely have lasted past lunch. Instead, when Smith and Renshaw were dismissed just before the main break, the tourists didn’t waver.

    Handscomb and Marsh produced one of the most bloody-minded stands by an Australian pair in many years. The former had threatened all series to play such an influential knock. Handscomb had typically looked at ease in his first five innings but had not capitalised.

    Yesterday he underlined just why many Australian pundits and fans thought he could do well in India. Handscomb has a very good technique against spin, built around his swift and assured footwork.

    The 25-year-old is supremely confident in his ability to skip down to the spinners and get to the pitch of the ball. This assertive approach then earns him shorter deliveries as the spinner overcorrects their length. When Handscomb can’t get to the pitch of the ball or rock back to cut and pull, he stretches out to smother the spin from his crease.

    At the other end Marsh exhibited a similarly assertive approach against spin. Controversially picked ahead of in-form first drop Usman Khawaja due to his superior record in Asia, Marsh proved the selectors right yesterday.

    After finding form in the second Test, where he made a sublime 66 on a nightmare pitch, Marsh expertly countered India’s main threat, Ravi Jadeja. The star left arm spinner had a huge patch of rough outside Marsh’s off stump at which to aim.

    Being the remarkably accurate bowler that he is, Jadeja hit this area constantly when operating against Marsh. But the West Australian did not let the rough get into his mind and played each delivery on its merits. By the time Marsh was finally dismissed, after almost four hours at the crease, Australia had all but saved the Test.

    Quite incredibly, the last time Australia batted their way to a draw in such trying circumstances was way back in 2005 in England. Making their effort even more significant is the fact it is six years since a visiting team in India conceded a first innings deficit and then managed to force a draw without the help of bad weather.

    The Pune Test showed the Australians that they had the talent and temperament to win in Asian conditions. Yesterday’s plucky effort was almost as significant, banishing memories of their 2016 capitulations.

    It was nearly as good as a victory for Australia. The pressure has now shifted on to the home side who must win the fourth Test at Dharamsala in order to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

    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 (173)

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:57am
      Worlds Biggest said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      What a defiant stand from Handscombe and Marsh, very gritty batting of which we have’nt seen for a long time. Great to see and more of it please !

    • March 21st 2017 @ 8:10am
      Rock said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      What a great day, so different to what we seen only less then 6 months ago. Well done SMarsh and Hanscomb, great to watch.

      I do wonder how much more time Warner will get, for everyone that reckons UK is the worst player of spin in the team, this series has once again hammered home that David Warner has absolutely no idea against quality spin, somehow that is different to UK though.

      Now what next for India, another low and slow wicket? Or a turner? But it certainly won’t have much bounce to negate our quicks and Lyon. Will be interesting to see what they produce.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 8:59am
      Peter said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Defence is the best form of defence!

      • March 21st 2017 @ 9:03am
        Thunder Nation said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        A summary of the 3rd Test and preview of the 4th Test

        The children of the future are here today
        Here they sing ad here they play
        Turn around and say to May
        The winds a blowin in the hay
        We can fight the fight that ends this thyme
        Or roll up the stumps and play with twine
        The children of the crickets future
        Begin with father, son, kinder and me.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 9:18am
          Tom M said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          You sir need to lay off the weed

        • March 21st 2017 @ 9:30am
          Basil said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          I feel Ralph from “The Simpsons” has joined us on this forum

          • Roar Rookie

            March 21st 2017 @ 9:35am
            Lancey5times said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            He is more Comic Book Guy.
            ‘Worst. Side. Ever.’

    • March 21st 2017 @ 9:27am
      Brainstrust said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      The batting performances in the first three innings of the series where the wickets were dodgier on the first day than the third one was on the last day are the highlights for this series rather than earning a draw here, if this wicket had started playing up on the last day it would have been a great performance but it didn’t, Marsh deserves credit because he had to deal with the footmarks and it was much more difficult for the left handers.It was still a good wicket for the right handers.
      The belief that the wicket would break up, especially when a major figure predicted that it would do by tea of Day 2 was what provided the tension in the match and drove the play, Australia were initially worried because they lost cheap wickets in good conditions, and thought if they blew the first innings the wicket would be turning square in the second , so were happy with 450 thinking the wicket would go downhill and then provide them with an easy victory., India were worried about batting last on the wicket, so they thought unless they surpassed Australias total by a fair margin they would be caught out batting last, so they ended up scrounging for runs and batting really slowly.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:23am
        TheCunningLinguistic said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        I agree with your call. Jajeda was always going to be the only bowler to seriously trouble our batsmen, but only the left-handed ones. Marsh’s effort to negate Jajeda deserves a bucketload of credit.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 9:39am
      WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      I just wonder if Kohli will be allowed to sit in the Air Conditioning again for most of a Test match other than when he bats?

      • March 21st 2017 @ 9:47am
        Matting wicket said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Why not, the game is much more enjoyable when he’s sitting in the stands and it clearly helps his batting! 🙂

        • March 21st 2017 @ 10:37am
          WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

          I can’t argue with that Matting wicket!

      • Roar Rookie

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:49am
        Dan said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        It was the best thing that happened to the Aussies.
        Rahane doesn’t have Kohli’s level of enthusiasm, tactics or sheer bloody mindedness. The way he used the bowlers was a definite downgrade to Kohli’s tactics.
        Went a long way to us not losing in my humble opinion.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 10:42am
          WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          I suspect the resolve of the Aussie batsmen to calm their desire to score quickly was the main reason they did not lose the Test.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 12:32pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            True. But I get where Dan was coming from. Kohli is ridiculously aggressive, not with bowling or field placings, but with talk and body language. When he’s captaining on the field he’s constantly verballing the batsmen and trying to make it feel like an incredibly hostile environment. The feeling seemed to be that it was less like that when he wasn’t on the field.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm
              ViratKohli said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

              Aussie supporters talking about hostility being returned back… What an awesome feeling.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 2:50pm
              WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              I think that only works a few times and then the opposition grow tired of it and just start laughing at him.
              Kohli got in their heads in the second Test, but I don’t think they care now, its just like ‘haha look at the clown’
              The only truth in that now is the potential for his behaviour to pump up his Team mates to perform better?

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 3:45pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

                It’s hard to tell if it would or wouldn’t make a difference, but the feeling seemed to be that it was a less aggressive atmosphere with Kohli off the field. I’m not saying whether that would have helped or hindered either side. Probably varies with the player. Some thrive on it and that hostile atmosphere focuses the mind and they play better, others it can rattle and bring about dismissals. Always need to know your opposition if going down that road or it can backfire.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 8:07pm
                Basil said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

                I can’t help but feel that Kohlis antics have actually brought out the best in the Aussies.
                They simply do not want to lose to the guy.

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 11:48am
                Matth said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

                Well he got under Maxwell’s skin on Day 5 and it got them a wicket.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 11:17am
        ViratKohli said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        He should be allowed to sit inside and given the trophy for the man of the series – just because he has BURNT so many Australian Fans that they cant stop talking about him.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 11:49am
          Nudge said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          Most people get spoken about in any walk of life when they carry on like a clown

          • March 21st 2017 @ 12:57pm
            ViratKohli said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

            For sure you may think of him as a clown maybe he should start using the Dressing Room Review System.

            The BURN on you all – thats what I am enjoying

            • March 21st 2017 @ 3:14pm
              Nudge said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              I’m enjoying watching him fret, well knowing that he could lose the unloseable series 2-1 when most people had the score line 4 zip

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 11:49am
                Matth said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

                With him averaging less than 10. Captains have been sacked for less. But this is hero worshipping India

        • March 21st 2017 @ 12:14pm
          WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

          There are numerous ways to get people talking about you, but none faster than acting like a ….. head!

          • March 21st 2017 @ 1:00pm
            ViratKohli said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            like an AUSSIE head… yeah he dishes out the same thing

            • March 21st 2017 @ 4:16pm
              WQ said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

              An ‘Aussie Head’, no idea what your talking about I’ve never heard the terminology!

              • March 21st 2017 @ 10:14pm
                Bee bee said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

                Shouldn’t you be resting up for the next test. Give it a rest Virat. You are so addicted to banter you are getting on the Roar and engaging AUSSIE fans. What the F.

                Ps. Love those sunnies.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 10:09am
      Paul2 said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Well done Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh and (dare I say it) the selectors. Great to see the Aussies grind out a draw. Someone else mentioned T3 in 2005; has there been a Test since then that the Australia have batted the final day to save a test like that?

      I think if there’s a criticism, it’s Smith’s reluctance to move beyond the 4 stock bowlers. Seems ridiculous that SOK bowls 77 overs, when Maxwell bowls only four, and Smith himself bowls none. Mix it up a bit, ffs. I would have thrown the gloves to Handscomb and brought Wade on for a few.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:30am
        TheCunningLinguistic said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Yep, that would be my one criticism as well. Surely Maxwell could have bowed a few more overs, particularly as he seemed reluctant to over-bowl Lyon as well.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 5:54pm
        James Jackson said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

        Because he was trying to make scoring incredibly difficult to keep the run rate down and avoid India running away with it, which he did. I feel like Marsh could have played a role, but Maxwell would have been more likely to give away 4-balls and relieve the relentless pressure built by the front-liners.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 10:23pm
          Bee bee said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

          Fair enough if he went for 30 off 4 overs but he went for 13.

          Smith could have given him a few more. Let’s hope the attack can recover for T4. No one deserves to sit it out. They have been exceptional.

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