India vs Australia | Talking points from Day 4 in Ranchi

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© BCCI

India vs Australia | Talking points from Day 4 in Ranchi

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SportsCafe Desk

03/19/2017

India ended the day with the upper hand as Australia lost the wickets of David Warner and Nathan Lyon after conceding the first innings lead to India. Riding on a brilliant Pujara-Saha partnership, India managed to score 603/9 before Virat Kohli decided to send the Australians into bat again.

Brief scores: Australia 451/10 (Steve Smith 178*, Glenn Maxwell 104; Ravindra Jadeja 5/124) & 23/2 (D Warner 14, M Renshaw 7*; R Jadeja 2/6) trail India 603/9 decl (C Pujara 202, W Saha 117; Pat Cummins 4/106) by 129 runs.

O'Keefe not the savior he was made out to be

After Steve O’Keefe’s brilliance in the first Test in Pune, the Australians thought that they had a Rangana Herath of their own in the making. But since the first Test, it has been anything but smooth sailing for the Aussie spinner. In a match where a slow left-arm orthodox bowler in the form of Ravindra Jadeja claimed a five-wicket haul, O’Keefe struggled to get into the groove as he finished with figures of 3/199. 

Jadeja bowling lines © Cricinfo

Bowling after Jadeja, O’Keefe just had to follow the Indian’s steps and force the batsman to come out and play but instead, he opted to go down a different route. O’Keefe was very defensive in his bowling style has he targeted the leg stump. While he did claim three wickets in the innings, he conceded an incredible 199 runs as well. 

O'Keefe Bowling lines © Cricinfo

How big a part this will play in the match remains to be seen but for a team that is excellent at analyzing their opponents, this has a feeling of a missed opportunity. 

The beauty of the Pujara-Saha partnership

Nothing is more pleasing than watching a duo unfurling a magnificent Test partnership that is completely orthodoxy. Today, Pujara and Saha’s 199-run partnership was one such occasion to savor. While there has always been a shade of doubt on Saha’s ability to bat for longer periods, the Bengal wicketkeeper silenced all the naysayers by a sublime and composed innings today. 

Under the overcast conditions in Ranchi, which forced the floodlights on at the JSCA Stadium, Pujara and Saha played every ball for its merit, much to the dismay of the Australian bowlers, who were seemingly frustrated with the steady growth of the partnership. In the later part of his innings, Saha donned the role of an aggressor by opening his shoulder to punish the bad deliveries outside his off stump.

Pujara, in the process, showed why the experts were not wrong by calling him ‘the next Rahul Dravid’ during the start of his career and in his 522-ball innings, Pujara broke Dravid’s record of playing highest number of balls during one innings of a Test match. And had Saha not been there, it would not have been possible.

Smith’s decision making was questionable

Smith’s performance with the bat in this series has been brilliant so far but the same can’t be said for his captaincy. Ever since DRS-gate, Australia's record following paints a very grim picture for the visitors as they have opted for five reviews but just one has yielded a favorable result. While the last two reeked of desperation to break the Pujara-Saha partnership, the actual calls were borderline embarrassing.

But it wasn’t just the reviews that Smith got wrong today. With Pujara and Saha easily navigating through the Australian bowling attack, Smith never risked bowling a part-time bowler in the hopes of getting a breakthrough. It wasn’t like that he did not have any options. Smith could have brought either himself or Maxwell into the attack since the pitch was offering variable bounce and it could have been a new challenge for the Indians, 

However, the Australian captain seemed more concerned with stopping the flow of runs that was already quite low and ended up having to chase down a lead of over 150 runs.

Virat Kohli's gambit puts India in control

For any batsman in the world, the most difficult thing is to start battling at the fag end of the day. Keeping this in mind, Virat Kohli instantly declared the innings as soon as India look a lead of over 150 runs. The target was to dismiss David Warner and for that, he employed Ravichandran Ashwin from the first over. 

If that was not enough, Kohli started off with an aggressive field from the first over with a silly point and a forward short leg. Even though Warner did well to extract two boundaries from the first over through point, Ashwin continued to pile pressure on him by bowling more straighter deliveries. From the other end, Jadeja simply followed the footmarks that Steve O’Keefe, had left and bowled wicket to wicket, to make life difficult for the Aussie openers.

The trick reaped rich dividends as Jadeja disturbed the furniture to dismiss Warner for 14, and followed that up by sending the nightwatchman Lyon packing as well.

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