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First Test: Steve challenge for hosts after O’Keefe the faith

Friday saw the rare occurrence of 7.5 overs leave what looks like an indelible mark on a Test. It was the time India took to implode from 94/3 to 105.

Published: 25th February 2017 05:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th February 2017 07:55 AM   |  A+A-

Steve O’Keefe of Australia celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane during the first Test in Pune on Friday | Picture Courtesy: BCCI

Express News Service

PUNE: Forty-seven deliveries. Or 7.5 overs. It’s almost a microscopic passage of play in a Test match, which can have 2,700 deliveries if 90 overs are bowled on all five days. Considering the amount of cricket before or after such a tiny segment, it isn’t expected to define a contest. The period is so short that even in the case of something drastic, it allows time to repair damage and reshape the course of the match.

Friday saw the rare occurrence of 7.5 overs leave what looks like an indelible mark on a Test. It was the time India took to implode from 94/3 to 105 against an attack that was incisive, but not unplayable. Demons, it seemed, were in the minds of batsmen rather than the pitch since before and after the sensational collapse, Australia put together decent batting efforts. With a lead of 298 at stumps on Day 2, they are firm favourites to go 1-0 up in the series.

It’s also quite rare to hold an individual responsible for such a collective failure, especially if he has contributed 64 of those 105 runs. Clutching his shoulder in pain after hitting a six off Steve O’Keefe, KL Rahul will still have to shoulder part of the blame for trying to repeat the shot. Having got away with a few mishits which flew to safety, he attempted a heave towards heaven instead of focussing on consolidating on a fourth-wicket partnership worth 50. The unheralded left-arm spinner ran through the rest in next to no time.

“In hindsight, yes, because the pitch demanded restraint. We saw that if you put your head down, it’s possible to score runs here,” replied coach Anil Kumble, asked if Rahul’s hara-kiri was the turning point. He also made a reference to the wild slash Virat Kohli perished too. “There were soft dismissals and our leading batsmen didn’t get runs. We didn’t adapt well. The lower order that bailed us out in the recent past also didn’t click. It was a bad day. Maybe one was due.”

Whatever be the outcome of this match, the MCA Stadium pitch will be remembered as one where a team averaging 514 in the first innings in the last nine Tests was gone in 40.1 overs. There was more than routine spin and even when Australia batted a second time, Ravindra Jadeja got several to zip past the outside edge without hitting it. At the same time, Australia showed after the anti-climactic developments that survival was not impossible.

“It’s a challenging wicket. It needed application with a blend of caution and aggression. But you can’t blame batsmen for trying to play shots. We have to give credit to the Australians. I also think tomorrow is a new day and there’s a lot of cricket to be played in this Test. As far as chasing in the fourth innings is concerned, all that I can say is there’s a first for everything,” said Kumble.

As a player, the leg-spin stalwart was part of some memorable achievements. In his new role as a coach too, he saw India dig deep to save the first Test against England last November. But given this pitch and time remaining, his team requires something as remarkable as his Perfect 10 to make a match of this.

atreyo@newindianexpress.com

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