Saturday March 4, 3:00pm AEDT
After stunning India in the first test in Pune, Australia will be looking to claim an unlikely 2-0 series lead with another win in the second test at Bangalore, starting on Saturday.
After going on a run of more than four years unbeaten at home, India crashed back to earth in devastating fashion, beaten by 333 runs inside three days at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium. The writing was on all the wall early when the visitors managed to overcome a challenging surface to reach 82 without loss, although a familiar collapse left the Aussies at 9/205 with India well on top.
A last-wicket stand of 55 wrestled the momentum back in Australia’s direction and from there they never really looked back with India bowled out for 105 and 107, either side of the Aussies’ determined second innings total of 285. Back on day one, paceman Umesh Yadav belied the dry surface to finish with 4/32, however in just his fourth test off-spinner Jayant Yadav was expensive, conceding 58 off 13 overs for just the sole wicket.
In the second innings, it was the familiar pair of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who did most of the damage, combining for figures of 7/184, although like his fellow offie Jayant, Ashwin was far from frugal, conceding more than four runs an over for the first time in seven tests.
With the bat there was very little to write home about for the hosts, save for Lokesh Rahul’s stylish first innings knock of 64 although it was his soft dismissal which precipitated a remarkable collapse of 7/11. India may look to strengthen their middle-order with Karun Nair a chance to be recalled, most likely in place of Jayant.
For Australia the first test was one of their most famous and unexpected victories, completely overwhelming India on a pitch that spun considerably from day one. Young opener Matthew Renshaw began the charge, battling illness during an impressive knock of 68 at the top of the order, although it took a dazzling cameo of 61 off 63 balls from Mitchell Starc to elevate the visitors to their eventual first innings total of 260.
Starc then picked up two early wickets, including the key scalp of opposition captain Virat Kohli, before left-arm orthodox spinner Steve O’Keefe completely changed the complexion of the game, running through the Indian middle-order and tail to finish with 6/35 and hand the Aussies a utopian first innings lead of 155.
With the pitch beginning to wear appreciably, Australian skipper Steve Smith produced one of his finest knocks, with a highly-skilled 109 in a total of 285, which left India with the herculean task of chasing a record 441 for victory.
As it turned out they never looked likely, with O’Keefe again grabbing the headlines with identical second innings figures of 6/35 and man of the match honours. His fellow tweaker Nathan Lyon also found some much-needed confidence in these conditions to pick up the remaining four wickets for 53 which made it the first time since 1993 that Australian spinners have claimed all 10 opposition wickets in an innings.
M Chinnaswamy Stadium
The M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore is generally a much more favourable venue for batsmen with five of the past seven first innings scores exceeding 400, while three of the past five tests there have finished as draws. Australia have actually won their last two tests in Bangalore, however they can expect a sharp riposte from Kohli who averages 154 in test cricket here.
- India have not lost consecutive tests at home since 2012.
- India have won 13 of their past 16 tests in Asia.
- However India have won only two of their past 10 tests at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
- Australia have not won consecutive tests in India since 2001.
- Australia have not won consecutive tests in Asia since 2006.
- Steve Smith has top-scored in four of his past 11 test innings.
Despite their capitulation in Pune, the hosts have retained favouritism with the market considering an Australian win or a draw an equal (and unlikely) chance.
What was most concerning about India’s defeat in Pune was the manner of the loss, with their batsmen looking totally befuddled by the workmanlike O’Keefe, while their bowlers failed to find the same sort of penetration on a surface that looked custom built for the home attack.
Much will depend on what sort of pitch is prepared in Bangalore but it would seem likely that a much flatter strip awaits which should enable their batting line-up to atone for their miserable efforts in the series opener, although that will heap further pressure on the shoulders of Ashwin and Jadeja to make in-roads against a resolute Australian batting unit.
While their incredible record at home cannot be overlooked, after such an abject performance I can’t be going in on India again at this price, particularly at a ground where they have historically enjoyed relatively little success.
In the same way that we should not write off India after one poor effort on home soil, nor can we anoint this Australian side as masters of the sub-continent after one (albeit memorable) victory. While they will be revelling in the headlines there is plenty of room for improvement in the visitors’ ranks, particularly amongst the batsmen with the likes of David Warner, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb failing to build upon starts in the first innings when the pitch was at its least destructive.
Whether O’Keefe, and indeed Lyon, can have the same impact on a more benign surface remains to be seen, although both do have plenty of experience of toiling away on lifeless pitches down under. So while the Aussies were undoubtedly impressive in Pune, I will need to see further evidence of sustained excellence in these conditions before I can side with the visitors.
After the first test finished in three days, the draw does not shape as the most enticing option and indeed with no draws from the last 12 tests involving Australia we certainly couldn’t back it here.
However with a pitch much more suited to batting, a ground which has seen three draws in its last five and unexpected levels of application from the visiting batsmen there are a few factors in its favour so we will resist the temptation to oppose the draw, meaning that we will overlook the match odds altogether.
Instead we will focus our energies on the Australian captain, whose superb knock in Pune was partially overshadowed by the deeds of O’Keefe. Smith’s second innings century was his third ton in his past four tests, and third in his last five tests away from home.
In those past five tests on foreign soil the Aussie skipper has barely missed a beat, averaging 64.50 while in his past 12 tests overall, Smith has scored five centuries and four fifties, averaging 68.32 in the process. Most pertinently Smith has top-scored in four of his past 11 test innings, including three of his past six in the first innings.
Coming off a sublime innings in the first test, Smith is certainly in form, and with a record on foreign soil that stands out like a beacon against his contemporaries I’ll have no hesitation in backing him to top-score again here.
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