India vs Australia 1st Test: Steve Smith's wicket early and positive batting key for hosts on Day 3
Smith's early wicket is extremely key and then not getting frustrated by the lower-order, another. Because the longer Australia play, the more wear and tear on the pitch will take place and it will only get ominous to play on.
India are on the back foot at Pune. Yes, you read it right. We are not used to hearing this but Australia are in with a glorious chance of taking a 1-0 lead in this series. A 38-minute madness saw India lose seven wickets for 11 runs as they went from 94/3 to 105 all out. Steve O'Keefe might have bowled the spell of his life as the Indian batsmen faltered against spin. A 155-run lead on this track was a bonus for the visitors.
It all started when KL Rahul played a really poor shot and it was followed by a procession. It wasn't about the pitch, but was all about application. The Indian batsmen didn't apply themselves and the Mitchell Starc innings last evening might turn out to be the difference between the two teams.
India's inability to break the last wicket partnership might have left them a bit frustrated, but such a massive collapse as the one we saw on day two was unimaginable. It was their worst seven-wicket collapse and second-lowest total in nine years since the 76 all out against South Africa in Ahmedabad back in 2008.
Ravichandran Ashwin did give India some hope of a fightback with three wickets but Steve Smith's unbeaten 59 has made sure Australia are steady at the moment with a lead of 298. India could have been in a much better position had they not fluffed chance after chance.
Smith was dropped thrice and in all, four catches were dropped. Poor DRS reviews didn't help either and now they are on the mat. The only way they can get out of this is attack right from the word go on day three. Smith's early wicket will be crucial and the hosts would be looking to make sure that the lead doesn't swell past 350. Smith's early wicket is the key and then not getting frustrated by the lower-order is another. The longer Australia play, the more wear and tear the pitch will undergo and the more difficult it will be to play on in the fourth innings.
The track is assisting significant turn and there is extra bounce too. Batting last on this wicket will be an arduous job and this is where India will need to be positive if and when they come out to bat on day three. They must try not to be overcautious. A good mix of caution and aggression will be the key. The Australian spinners have shown that the scoring can be choked and pressure piled on.
Indian batsmen didn't apply themselves and apart from Cheteshwar Pujara and Vijay, the rest of them departed to mediocre shots. The pitch is still not a minefield. A good opening partnership will be the need of the hour for India on day three. India have averaged only 33 for the opening partnership in the past one year. However, at first, they need to restrict Australia to less than 350. It will still be tough but a good batting performance might still give them a chance, but.... a very slim one.
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