"I think Day 2 (of Bangalore Test) was fantastic. There was attrition. Only 190 runs were scored and six wickets were taken but the intensity and control with which our bowlers bowled, especially the pacers, showed character. That's what you want to see in a team – a lot of character and pride in doing things and coming back and winning a Test match." These words of Indian coach Anil Kumble after the second Test match in Bengaluru highlight the impact the second day's play had on the Test match and the series.
Having been made to bite the dust in Pune in the opening Test and then being bowled out for a paltry 189 in the first innings of the 2nd rubber, India were on the verge of losing the grip of the much-anticipated series. They needed to stand up and be counted on the second day in Bengaluru and they did just that. The momentum swung from thereon and Virat Kohli and Co registered a 75-run win.
At the end of Day 1 of the third Test in Ranchi, India find themselves in a similar situation. Steve Smith-led Australia reached 299/4 at stumps, despite losing four wickets before having 150 on the board. Smith who scored his second century of the series, was well-supported by Glenn Maxwell who remained unbeaten on 82 at the end of the day. The partnership between the two currently stands at 159 and threatens to throw India's chances of winning this Test match out of the window.
"The ball didn't spin here. In the first two Tests, the ball spun. The bounce was consistent and there wasn't any up and down movement," Smith said of the Ranchi wicket at the end of the day. So to be fair to the Indian bowlers, they didn't get a lot of help from the bowlers, but the lethargy with which they approached the final session of play, hardly helped their cause and allowed Australia to take control of the Test match.
With India having to bat fourth in this Test, it will be crucial for the hosts to keep Australia's first innings total as low as possible. The way Smith and Maxwell went about their business on day 1, it will require a special effort from India to wrest the initiative back in this Test match. With doubts over Kohli's fitness, after he injured his shoulder while fielding on the first day, India's senior players would need to step up and ensure the team maintains a level of intensity on the field to put the Australians under pressure.
The morning session of play offered plenty for the bowlers on the first day and the Australians lost three of their four wickets in that session. So, India would be hoping that little bit of help from the track does the trick for them and they are able to trigger an Australians collapse.
However, for that to happen, the hosts would need to significantly improve their performance. They will need to repeat the brilliance of the second day's play in Bengaluru where they tightened the screws on the Australians and made them crumble under pressure. The first session on Day 2 will be very crucial for the home side, and the first thing they would want to do is break the Smith-Maxwell partnership. Both players would cut loose once the wicket eases off and would take the game away from India very quickly. So the hosts need to send the duo back into the hut as soon as possible.
India ideally would like to take at least 3-4 wickets in the morning session and keep the Australian score below 400. The hosts can draw inspiration from the fact that they beat England twice after conceding 400 in the first innings, and believe they can do the same to the Australians.
It is easier said than done, but India would need to make Day 2 of the Ranchi Test theirs, or kiss goodbye to their hopes of regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.