Cricket: Steve Smith has pulled off one of the greatest
AUSTRALIA delivered another brutal sucker punch to the reputation of Virat Kohli, but India still managed to surge back into the reckoning without their skipper to turn the second Test on its head in Bangalore.
India started the day facing a big first innings deficit, but finished it an ominous 126 runs ahead as the resurgent hosts made Australia pay for their first below par sessions of the series.
The gripping match still hangs on a knife’s edge, but on an unpredictable pitch Australia has plenty of work to do, needing to break the match-turning 93 run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane and take six more wickets, before bracing for a fourth innings run-chase of epic proportions.
Tensions flared again on day three, with Steve O’Keefe warned for spraying Pujara (79 not out) – who Australia dropped on 3 – while Kohli once again lost his rag and made yet another DRS blunder attempting to save his own skin.
SUPERMAN: Super Steve’s classic catch
In the most controversial moment of the series so far, Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood trapped Kohli lbw for 15, sparking dramatic scenes as the Indian skipper fumed with rage, convinced he had hit the ball first and had been badly dudded by umpire Nigel Llong, who put his finger straight up.
Kohli had no hesitation in sending the decision straight upstairs, shocked he had been given out on field – particularly after Hazlewood appeared to give up on his appeal halfway through.
However, DRS replays were inconclusive and protocol states the third umpire had no choice but to stick with the on-field decision – with no evidence to suggest Llong hadn’t been 100 per cent spot on.
“I think initially I just heard a bit of wood so I pulled out of the appeal but the guys behind the wicket and square of the wicket were pretty confident,” said Hazlewood.
“Obviously it got given out. I think after looking at the reviews you could see it just touching that pad before the bat so you had to stick with the on-field call.
“He was obviously pretty confident he got some bat on it, reviewing it straight away. As we saw, it pretty tight.
“I think his temperature rose a little bit but you had to stick with the on field call pretty sure.”
Cricket:Virat Kohli’s LBW woes continue.
It could have been the moment that won Australia the Border-Gavaskar trophy as India went three wickets down and only 25 runs in front.
But despite Hazlewood (3-57) smashing through Ravi Jadeja’s defences for his third wicket, a super partnership between Pujara and Rahane unbeaten on 40 gave India all the running by stumps at 4-213 from 72 overs.
In the final session, India smashed 91 runs without loss.
History says Australia should still be confident of their chances, with India winning only three times when giving up a first innings deficit in excess of 87.
There have only ever been four successful fourth innings chases in Bangalore, but they all sit within the ball park of what Australia are facing on day four, with 262 by India against New Zealand in 2012 and 151 by India against the Black Caps in 1995 the range of biggest to smallest.
“I think it feels pretty level at the moment,” said Hazlewood, who admitted Australia’s fast bowlers were off the mark.
“I think the quicks were still too wide. I think with the ball shooting through with that up and down bounce we needed to be a bit straighter.
“They obviously fought back really well in that last session. It’s a credit to the two guys out there batting now, they stuck to their plans and fought hard and scratched away for quite a good amount of runs. I think it’s pretty level.”
Australia’s day didn’t start well when they lost their final four wickets for seven to give them a first-innings lead of 87, which quickly evaporated when Mitchell Starc (0-45) and Hazlewood missed their mark and India raced to 0-38 at lunch off just 10 overs.
Australia struggled to bowl maidens throughout a frustrating day, Nathan Lyon going for 0-69, and therefore they were unable to build the pressure that’s instigated some crippling Indian collapses this series.
Pujara was dropped by captain Steve Smith for 3 – a tough chance, but one Australia may live to regret.
The No.3 then went on to play an inspiring role, getting under the skin of the Australians, as O’Keefe was warned for a heated verbal attack when Smith held a spectacular catch to remove another danger man Lokesh Rahul for 51.
Cricket: Cheteshwar Pujara is dropped twice early on in his innnings.
Kohli was forced to depart for his fourth low score from as many innings this series, and walking off the field he mouthed his frustration all the way to the fence, also waving his bat in front of him animatedly, as if to indicate he had clearly hit the ball moments before it squeezed his front pad.
In the end, it was yet another botched referral from the Indian skipper this series in a saga that’s become a comedy of errors for the under-pressure star.
With tempers simmering between the two sides, Australia exploded in jubilation when it became clear Kohli was to be given his marching orders.
Originally published as Aussie bowlers blunt King Kohli’s aura