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Australia vs India: Six talking points from the first Test

Australian captain Steve Smith. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
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26th February, 2017
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Australia have not only surprised everyone by not being pummelled in the first Test match of the series – they actually won? And boy did they win big.

Despite what many believed to be a fatal collapse of sorts on the first day, losing eight wickets for just 86 runs through the middle session, Australia not just recovered from there, but went on to record a frankly ridiculous 333-run win over India, in India.

All the wash-up from India vs Australia
» Match report
» The Liebke ratings
» Australia embarrass India technically and mentally
» Australia must not repeat 2001 nightmare
» India buried in their own dustbowl

Australia have broken a seven consecutive Test match losing streak in India thanks to the two Steves, Smith and O’Keefe.

In just two and a half days, Australia have managed to ask more questions than they’ve answered leading into the other series after a Test full of collapses, surprises, wickets coming left right and centre – and runs where they should and shouldn’t be.

Let’s take a look at the six talking points from the first Test.

O’Keefe’s masterclass is making Lyon very nervous
Steve O’Keefe has had a weird international career so far, playing just a few Tests and being another victim of the post-2007 search for another Shane Warne. However, in one fell swoop, the Malaysian born tweaker could be in for a career renaissance.

On a turning wicket seemingly designed specifically for the Indians, O’Keefe tore shreds off a team of batsmen who specialise on these kinds of wickets.

Six wickets in both innings, kicking off a spectacular first-innings collapse of 7/11 and snagging six of the first seven in the second innings has not just put O’Keefe on the radar for India, but also his own teammates.

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Nathan Lyon has been Australia’s front line spinner for the last five years, but over the past 12 months questions have been raised about his form and place in the side. While Lyon has continuously swatted that talk away, this surely has to make him nervous.

One of the reasons Lyon has never been troubled up the top of the spinners pile has been a perceived lack of competition for his spot, but O’Keefe has swiftly changed that.

Barring injury, you’d imagine these two are a lock in to share the duties for the whole series, but after that, could O’Keefe have just spun his way into a more permanent role?

Smith making India his bunny just for fun
He didn’t necessarily set the world on fire in the first innings, falling for a grinding 27 from 95 deliveries, but he more than proved why he’s the best in the world in the second innings.

Smith pieced together a sublime 109 from 202 balls in the second innings in challenging conditions while everyone from both sides collapsed around him. He has cemented his status as his generation’s golden player.

On top of that, this was his fifth century in a row against India, a side he clearly enjoys playing – or dominating, as it were.

The next best score was 31 in the innings, but Smith was able to keep concentration and hold out one of the best bowlers in the world in Ravi Ashwin.

In an era of the so called ‘Big Four’ in Smith (Australia), Virat Kholi (India), Joe Root (England) and Kane Williamson (New Zealand), the Aussie has been able to stand out against each one of the opposition and has proved the most consistent by far.

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Yep, the Marsh brothers again
It wouldn’t be an article about cricket in Australia if it didn’t involve complaining about one or both of the Marsh brothers now would it?

Despite Usman Khawaja, despite poor form, despite no need for a third seamer in a spin friendly environment, despite history, despite nearly everything, Mitch and Shaun Marsh were picked for the opening Test.

The Australian public duly ripped on them, complaining about the amount of chances they continue to get and the better options within our domestic system. And the people have been justified!

Does that mean that either of them will now be dropped as they should? Probably not, but once again they’ve failed at the top level.

Shaun came in early in both innings thanks to Matt Renshaw and his Delhi belly, but failed to live up to the reasoning of his selection, “having good history on the sub-continent” being the idea as to why he was brought in.

Mitch failed with the bat as per usual, although did get the second top score in the second innings, however, didn’t bowl a single ball. The all rounder in the side for batting and bowling, didn’t bowl.

So does that mean he’s our specialists sixth batsman? If so, he still failed, and if that’s the case, then Mitch Starc now has a better Test match batting average, so he should be the specialist sixth batsman.

Kholi isn’t invincible after all
Virat Kholi came into this series in record-breaking form, having scored a double century in each of his last four Tests and the most runs in a single season, ever.

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In his home conditions with runs pouring out of every orifice, Kholi was, and still is, the key target for Australia if they want to avoid losing the series.

However, in spectacular, and beyond surprising fashion, Kholi came to the crease in India’s first innings and was back in the sheds two balls later for a duck, his first in over 100 international matches and first at home.

In the second innings he came to the crease again earlier than he would have liked, with India in need of the hero they had become so accustomed to, but alas, he fell for 13.

O’Keefe caught him out leaving one on one off stump and just like that, a highly likely win became a certain victory. His lowest Test aggregate at home finished with a destructive defeat at home as captain.

So are we going to win 4-0 now?
Following a victory like this, people get pretty cocky, pretty excited about the potential and possibilities of a clean sweep. Why stop at one win? Why not win everything?

We shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves though. This was the debut Test for Pune and the pitch was rough as guts five overs into the first day, so for the sake of the argument, the wicket was an anomaly.

Yes Australia still completely outplayed India in every facet of the game, but once the home side get their mojo back and play on more of the pitches they’re used to being gifted by the groundsmen around the country, then we might find them bouncing back to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

There’s no reason why Australia can’t win another one or more, or at worst draw the four-Test series, but winning one battle doesn’t make you king.

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What does this say about England leading into the Ashes
On a side note, India demolished England 4-0 at home just a couple of months ago in these same conditions.

Heading into an Ashes year Australia are looking for every indication, every comparison and every leg up they can to take the urn and this is a good start.

In the same situation, Australia smashed India, where England were smashed by India.

Technically that means we are way better than them and are set for a clean sweep of the Ashes.

If anything, it’s a telling sign that Australia appear to be a much stronger side across all conditions than the old foe and have a stronger side overall.

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