“Virat’s one of the best batters in the world I’ve ever come across, so to be able to take his wicket today was exceptional. But we know this is a massive series and a long series. He’s a world-class batter so we expect him to bounce back. He’s the head of the snake, if you want to put it in Dale Steyn’s terms, if you can take that then hopefully the body will fall away is what Dale said.” – NM Lyon after play, Day 1.
Not unusually, local circumstances here prevailed such that, despite a peripheral awareness that a major sporting event was unfolding, I missed this entire Test match. What follows is a black and white sketch, pieced together from scorecards.
Can you help to add colour? To add insight, understanding? To flesh out this skeleton?
What is this headless snake that kills? What is this creature felled by a headless snake?
2nd Test, Bengaluru (Bangalore)
India 189 (KL Rahul 90, NM Lyon 22.2 – 4 – 50 – 8)
Australia 276 (SE Marsh 66, RA Jadeja 21.4 – 1 – 63 – 6)
India 274 (CA Pujara 92, JR Hazlewood 24 – 5 – 67 – 6)
Australia 112 (SPD Smith 28, R Ashwin 12.4 – 4 – 41 – 6)
India won by 75 runs
With its conclusion tonight (Melbourne time), Bangalore, as this city of Bengaluru was until recently known, has seen one of the great Test matches. No amount of server reboots or wi-fi wireless access point installations in this IT town could possibly recreate the tension, the atmosphere, the feats of high-wire performance that occurred over the past four days at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru.
Never before have four separate bowlers claimed six wicket hauls (or better) in a Test match.
Never before has a visiting bowler to India claimed figures as outrageous as NM Lyon’s first innings 8/50.
And the tension was building from the start. Following immediately on from the unexpected Indian capitulation in Pune, including the twin failures there of talismanic firebrand captain V Kohli, many many eyes were trained upon this match. How would a re-shuffled India respond? Would V Kohli himself be emboldened? Chastened? Humbled? By what clandestine reckoning were the Marsh brothers still considered to be a part of Australia’s best XI? How would SNJ O’Keefe follow-up his Pune heroics?
India wins the toss and bats, hoping for a 400+ score. As CA Pujara falls, lunch is taken.
Captain Kohli strides to the wicket for the middle session.
Cue NM Lyon, sporting hair like a dog-chewed Slazenger tennis ball, with his bouncy offies. Offies. Probably gentle offies. To V Kohli. Who is breathing fire.
NM Lyon throws one up.
Up goes another.
V Kohli, mentally beaten, leaves the straight one. LBW.
V Kohli, mentally beaten again, reviews that straight one. Still LBW.
It is 3/88 and it is wobbly.
And from here, the stranded and headless Indian cobra writhes, thrashes, without organised intent. All eyes are on the bewitching and fantastic numbers alongside NM Lyon. At 7/178, with WP Saha’s wicket, NM Lyon has 5-fa.
“He’s got 6.”
“He’s got 7.”
“Oh jeez – he’s got 8.”
India 189 all out.
Australia with sixteen overs to bat. Hot of head and hard of hands, DA Warner paired with the rapidly soothing and reassuring figure of young MT Renshaw, thankfully over last week’s bout of sub-continental trots.
This is unquestionably Australia’s day. NM Lyon’s day. One can only imagine the sense of achievement and happiness that psychologists would need to extinguish this night.
Day 2 and DA Warner knows one gear. And spectators and selectors know that he knows only one gear. But at 1/52, R Ashwin had his man. Bowled. R Ashwin doesn’t go on to claim the figures in this innings, but he bowls an astonishing 49 overs (49 – 13 – 84 – 2); 229 dot balls; as both teams scrap and fight.
Fight and scrap.
Scrap and fight.
At lunch Australia 2/87 (MT Renshaw 40*, SE Marsh 2*)
Young Renshaw chips away, grinding, sweating, concentrating. UT Yadav and RA Jadeja chip away, grinding, sweating, concentrating.
Eventually he falls stumped to Jadeja. MT Renshaw 60.
PSP Handscomb picks up the thread of the story, also working away, seeming to have everything sussed, only to fall for 16 (4/160).
Tea is taken as MR Marsh is dismissed for a falling over LBW duck. (Oh, why?)
At tea Australia 5/163 (SE Marsh 38*)
SR Marsh is the next to go, a stoic innings of 66 (6/220), leaving MS Wade and MA Starc to see passage to stumps. Which they do.
Australia 6/237 (MS Wade 25*, MA Starc 14*)
A grinding day of cricket. Australia optimally seeking a big first innings lead, content now to patch together any sort of lead at all. Lower order runs again very important.
Day 3 and hopes are high for MS Wade and MA Starc. Hopes are high also for R Ashwin and RA Jadeja, who have bowled with alacrity all Indian summer.
MA Starc falls for 26 (7/269), before MS Wade for 40 (8/274 “RA Jadeja’s got 4”), and the whole thing is wrapped up…
“He’s got 5 (NM Lyon)!”
“He’s got 6 (JR Hazlewood)!”
… before lunch. Australia all out 276.
A lead of just 87.
India now with a lead to create. A lead large enough to trouble a fourth innings chase.
KL Rahul and A Mukund reach lunch. India 0/38.
But this is JR Hazlewood’s time to shine. In the second session, Day 3, the big man immediately takes:
A Munkud, bowled, for 16 (1/39), and backs up with:
V Kohli, LBW, reviewed, and still LBW, for 15 (3/112), and
RA Jadeja, bowled, for 2 (4/120).
At tea, India 4/122 (CA Pujara 34*, AM Rahane 2*). Leading by just 35.
After tea, this is CA Pujara’s and AM Rahane’s time to shine. In the third session, these two carry their bats, weathering all that Australia throws at them, scoring a healthy 91 runs into the bargain. This is a match-changing partnership.
At stumps, India 4/213 (CA Pujara 79*, AM Rahane 40*). Leading by 126.
Day 4 dawns with apprehension and opportunity. With stories waiting to be written, with individual and team mettle waiting to be tested. Which way would this twisting tale of a match turn?
And it is MA Starc who claims the first of the morning: AM Rahane lbw for 52 (5/238).
Next ball he claims another: KK Nair bowled for 0 (6/238). A lead of 151.
Just four runs later, CA Pujara falls short of a century, c MR Marsh b JR Hazlewood for 92 (6/242).
“He’s got 4-fa.”
Before two more quick ones:
R Ashwin b JR Hazlewood 4 (8/246) “Make that 5-fa. Michelle.”
UT Yadav c DA Warner b JR Hazlewood 1 (9/258) “Make that 6-fa. Another one.”
The lead is creeping up. 171.
And then a tenacious fighting last wicket partnership, whose value in runs is perhaps matched by its value in the showing of intent, stymies Australia’s run. I Sharma and WP Saha survive another ten overs, adding 16 runs and frustrating the Australians. SNJ O’Keefe gets the final wicket as lunch is called.
Lunch, India all out 274. The lead is 187.
Australia has 188 to make, and five sessions in which to make them.
But a fourth innings pitch in Bengaluru is no Adelaide Oval road.
How would they go? Would the top order fire? Would it fall to the middle order to prove the doubters wrong? Would R Ashwin show human signs of fatigue?
MT Renshaw c WP Saha b R Ashwin 5 (1/22, 4.3 overs)
DA Warner lbw b R Ashwin 17 (2/42, 9.1 overs) – erroneously reviews, decision upheld.
SE Marsh lbw b UT Yadav 9 (3/67, 14.6 overs) – erroneously decides against reviewing
SPD Smith lbw b UT Yadav 28 (4/74, 20.3 overs)
MR Marsh c KK Nair b R Ashwin 13 (5/101, 25.6 overs)
MS Wade c WP Saha b R Ashwin 0 (6/101, 27.5 overs) “He’s got 4-fa”
Tea Australia 6/101 (PSP Handscomb 19*)
Australia with 87 more runs to get, India with four wickets to get, four sessions to play.
MA Starc b R Ashwin 1 (7/103, 29.4 overs) “Make that another Michelle.”
SNJ O’Keefe b RA Jadeja 2 (8/110, 34.2 overs)
PSP Handscomb c WP Saha b R Ashwin 24 (9/110, 35.2 overs) “Six! Another six-fa!”
NM Lyon c&b R Ashwin 2 (10/112, 35.4 overs)
And it’s over.
India win by 75 runs.
What to make of this?
What has happened?
I wonder about this snake, especially should its head ever re-grow.
After two matches, the series is 1-1.
The third Test begins on March 16.
See Earl O’Neill’s “Open letter from Australia: Dear Mitch…”