If SOK doesn’t get you, the GOAT will

Date: March 5, 2017 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australia is potentially one good partnership from retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

As it stands, five days of cricket may well be enough to end India’s hopes of regaining the silverware.

And that Roarers, will be a magnificent achievement.

India’s skipper Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble both played down the significance of Australia’s victory at Pune, deferring instead to the fact that the pitch was what made the tourists’ spinners look like world beaters.

No such excuses can be put forward for the effort displayed with the willow on day one at Bangalore.

India won the toss. Australia won the day, and likely, the Test.

While the Indian camp did its best to talk down any chance of a post-Pune hangover, it was very much evident at Chinnaswamy Stadium.

India’s hubris in producing a sub-standard pitch for the opening Test may well cost them the series.

It allowed Australia to head to Bangalore brimful of confidence – especially its spinners – while India was scarred, regardless of their protestations otherwise.

Yesterday, its batsmen lacked positivity, the footwork was errant, the game plan to the spinners flimsy, and the ability to apply pressure totally lacking except for a fine hand by opener K L Rahul (90), although he was the beneficiary of two dropped chances.

While it was Steve O’Keefe who flattened the hosts at Pune, it was Nathan Lyon who landed the blows at Bangalore.

He bowled beautifully in the opening Test and followed up again yesterday. He dismembered the Indian batting on a pitch that was deemed a good batting surface pre-game.

Like Harbhajan Singh of yesteryear, Lyon imparts a lot of over spin with the resultant bounce proving just as big a threat as his side spin.

His 8-50 from 22.2 overs are the best figures by a touring bowler in a Test in India and the sixth best by an Australian bowler anywhere.

O’Keefe also bowled beautifully again, with his 1-40 off 21 overs sufficiently stymying the Indian run flow.

During the innings, Lyon also surpassed Brett Lee’s Australian record of 53 Test wickets against India.

After Abhinav Mukund fell for a duck to Mitchell Starc, India progressed to 1-72 before Lyon claimed Cheteshwar Pujara right on lunch with a classic off-spinner’s dismissal with the ball turning from outside off, bouncing, catching the edge, then the pad and then the hands of Peter Handscomb at short leg.

The middle session brought Kohli to the crease.

He moved to a dozen before he produced a brain fade on par with his second innings dismissal at Pune when he lost off-stump to O’Keefe without offering a shot.

On this occasion, he opted to shoulder arms to a ball that cannoned into his pads en route to leg stump.

His referral was farcical as the forensic evidence showed the ball smashing full-on into the leg peg. It was the shot of a man whose brain was weighed down by the cataclysmic loss at Pune.

India feeds off Kohli’s batting, much as Australia does off its skipper. Currently, he is plumbing the depths.

Each of his three dismissals in this series – he flashed at a wide one from Starc to fall for a second ball duck in the first innings of the opening Test – have been those of a man whose mind is currently addled.

The last time Kohli experienced a trough like this was in England in 2014.

In that series, he was twice out not offering a shot – bowled for a duck at Lord’s by Liam Plunkett and leg before to Chris Jordan at The Oval. He ended the five Tests with 134 runs at 13.4. India led 1-0 after two Tests before losing 3-1.

In this series, he has 25 runs from three innings.

Lyon’s resurrection has been astonishing.

Had it not been for a calf injury to O’Keefe ahead of the Adelaide Test against South Africa, Lyon may not have been in the starting eleven in India.

After failing to make an impact in Sri Lanka and a lacklustre start to the home summer he was destined for the chop after the humiliation of Hobart.

Had he been jettisoned for the final South Africa Test, and with no Sheffield Shield cricket ahead of this series and with Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar in the touring party he could have been on the outer.

And, indeed, had the roles been reversed yesterday and O’Keefe had been the one to claim the eight scalps Lyon’s hopes of being the primary spinner come the Ashes next summer would have been tenuous.

As it sits currently, Lyon has 13 wickets in the series at 9.5 and O’Keefe 13 at 8.5. Between them, they have outplayed India at its own game.

Lyon now sits on 241 Test wickets. Eight more and he will go past Richie Benaud into eighth position all-time for Australia, with Shane Warne the only spinner ahead of him.

And, let us not forget, he is yet to turn 30.

Resuming on day two at 0-40, and just 149 in arrears, Australia will be looking to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Given they will likely need to bat last to win the match the sooner they do so the better as the pitch will certainly deteriorate through days four and five.

Thus far in the series, India has batted in three innings, faced 145 overs, lost 30 wickets, and scored 401 runs.

From an Australian fan’s perspective, dreams do come true.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 5 March 2017, soliciting 101 comments