India v Australia – Pune Test, Day 2: Handbrake turns in Pune
Australia 260 and 4/143
India 105 (Steve O’Keefe 6/35)
“Steve O’Keefe,” began a so-called cricket enthusiast, not too long ago, “is the Tyrone Vickery of the Australian cricket team.”
Nods, murmured agreement from the desensitised and thoroughly bored crowd of three. Undiscouraged, the tragic plows obliviously forward.
“He’ll turn up every week and can do whatever he wants, knowing he’ll get picked in the squad.”
Were those crickets? Was that a tumbleweed?
He’s a glorified dart bowler. He gets picked because he’s a New South Welshman and because he has a good nickname. Jon Holland is younger, better and more talented than him.”
Well, hush my mouth because after a good year and a bit of trouncing Steve O’Keefe and his left-arm “nudies,” I’ve been given a sizeable slice of humble pie. My merry band of vocal O’Keefeaphobics has melted mysteriously into thin air, hell, even Matty Wade has jumped aboard the bandwagon and is rumbling “Nice, Sok” into the stump mic.
And, defying my very soul, I have snuck onboard the wagon. A seat at the back, worn timber, straight-backed. My face is hidden inside a dark jacket, lest any enthusiasts spot me from my impassioned, emotive and embarrassingly public cries for O’Keefe to be banished back to Sheffield Shield.
But this humble pie isn’t as bitter and sour as its football variant.
With O’Keefe’s resurgence in India, to the tune of a solid 6/35, has come a sense that Australia might not-lose to India.
We won’t call it winning yet, or even a respectable draw. Reverently, quietly, the possibility of a non-loss is manifesting itself.
All thanks to that left arm dart slinger from Sydney, and some able help from his fellow New South Welshman.
It is grotesque that the entire Australian attack is made up of those strange, northern beasts. Of course, we’ll disregard Mitch Marsh’s gentle and, well, useless seamers.
And yet, and yet, I may have to applaud those who have brought Australia the chance of coming home from India with nothing but a bad bout of diarrhoea to account for it (with apologies to M.T Renshaw).
So, consider me clapping. Slowly, carefully, shrewdly.
The day began with Mitchell Starc swinging for the fences, striking a boundary before skying one to cow corner. His runs came quickly, although not as quickly as Renshaw’s, if you’ll pardon the pun. With enough runs to account comfortably for the Marsh brothers, Starc entered the changerooms with both his bowel and reputation intact.
Unfortunately that cannot be said for the majority of the Indian side.
Starc and Hazlewood did their thing, flinging the pill right into the danger zone. Nick, nick, and nick. Viral Kohli’s wicket, in particular, set the tone for the day: surprising, unfamiliar, it’s-not-what-I-expected-but-we’ll-take-it.
And then came the spin. O’Keefe and Lyon, the former known for his annual appearance in the final Test of the home summer and the latter for an internet meme, started doing what everyone didn’t expect and made the most of the treacherous Pune deck. The ball was literally doing handbrake turns off the surface, making it impossible to lay bat upon the thing.
But the Indians are good. They got bat to ball.
The perfect amount to be snaffled at slip, or short leg. Or by Matty Wade, as on one occasion the ball corkscrewed impossibly past the bat, only for the poor batsman to find himself so lost that Wade, known for his questionable `keeping record, had time to whip the bails gleefully off while the poor bugger stood, holding a wonderful pose mind you, outside his crease.
And of course, the typical tailender slogging.
And that was it. 105 on the home deck.
Talk for the Indians began about not-winning, while Australia made their way off the ground, bemused, stupefied by their own brilliance.
Warner came and did his Warner thing; Marsh the elder was trapped LBW. But that was about it for the Indians as Australia went about their way avoiding the capitulation that was so certain, so will-happen, so definite. Cap’n Smitty made a half ton. Marsh the younger made double figures.
Renshaw wore his brown undies to work, and made his way to a typically gritty and awkward 30.
Australia are 4 down with an amount of runs on the board which would suggest that they have a chance to not-lose the game.
I stand to be proven wrong. I refuse optimism. I am a Richmond supporter.
However, just once –
Go team. This could be big.