India have leveled the series by ripping through Australia’s fragile batting. The ferocity of the Bengaluru contest was stunning and demonstrated again why Test cricket is the game’s best format.
Frantic tension ran through each session and the match turned on its head every few hours. India looked more aggressive than I have ever seen.
Virat Kohli has accused Australia of cheating. Struck on the pad and given out during the frantic fourth innings run chase, Smith appeared to seek guidance on a review from the pavilion. Umpire Llong recognised this and immediately dismissed Smith.
It was not appropriate or within the laws of the game and Smith acknowledged this describing it as a ‘brain fade’ after the match. He will learn and change. But will Kohli change his own often over-the-top approach?
Kohli’s passion and qualities as a batsman are clear, but he must gain maturity and develop humility and tact to be better leader.
The Indians were incensed by Smith’s glance and this will add more rage and drama to the series.
The one that got away
Australia nearly pulled off a miraculous victory. After losing the toss and bowling first it seemed likely India would make amends for their humiliating loss in Pune but Australia’s bowlers tore through their resistance.
The Australians knew that batting last would be tough and the bulk of their batting had to be done in the first innings. They amassed a handy 87 run lead.
But it wasn’t enough.
In the second innings India seemed on the rails again when Kohli was dismissed cheaply for a fourth time in the series. He was absolutely seething at the third umpire’s decision to dismiss a DRS appeal and support the on-field umpire’s LBW decision.
It was close, but it was correct.
Strangely, Jadeja was sent out to bat at five. A handy number 8 at best, it was never going to end well while Australia’s quicks were tearing into the blood mist.
After Jadeja’s stumps were shattered India were 4 down and only 33 ahead. The normally raucous Indian crowd was stunned into disbelieving silence. Australia were rampant.
The next partnership changed the game though and Pujarra and Rahane’s 118 run stand – the biggest of the series by either team – took the lead into dangerous territory for Australia’s collapsible batting.
It seemed the lead could go well beyond 200 but after taking the new ball on the fourth day Australia took 4 wickets from 11 balls and finished off India’s tail.
They needed 188 to win the Test, go two nil up and secure the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
It was always going to be tougher than it seemed. As I wrote before the series we knew Australia’s bowlers could expose India’s batting but it would come down to how well Australia could resist Ashwin and Jadeja and bat long and bat big.
India’s quicks, Ishant and Yadav, have also bowled well and have rarely offered Australia notable reprieve from the constant pressure of the spinners. Despite this there were signs that Australia’s batting had improved, playing a more patient and disciplined game as demanded by Smith.
The First Test 333 run thumping of India was a shock. It was a remarkable achievement for Australia and Smith’s fine century was made sweeter by the fact that the match referee reported the wicket to the ICC for failing to meet international standards.
But the the quick pre-series paint job started to crack and Australia’s corrosive batting was exposed in the Begaluru run chase. It needs to be stiffened again if they are stay in the series because Kohli is unlikely to keep failing and India are due to score big runs.
He has some supporters but Mitchell Marsh is not good enough at this stage to be batting in Australia’s top six. With Wade at 7 averaging only 29 in Tests, Australia needs six proper top order batsmen. Not a bloke that averages 22, fewer than number 8 Mitchell Starc.
Having a fifth bowler is a luxury Australia cannot afford. Some prefer Glenn Maxwell but I prefer Usman Khawaja. That may require an order reshuffle, so be it.
India are unlikely to change their winning formula unless Murali Vijay recovers from injury.
Surprisingly the wickets presented so far have not supported long innings. But that may change, the final two venues will be flatter and tougher work for the bowlers.
The next Test begins on 16 March in Ranchi.
Cricket Froth will be on the job in India for the final two Tests. See you soon.