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O’Keefe 12 condemns India to 333-run defeat

Wisden India logo Wisden India 25-02-2017
© Reuters

It was a case of the two Steves doing India in during the third afternoon of the first Test at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Saturday (February 25). Steven Smith batted like a colossus with a masterful 109 off 202 balls to set India a 441-run target to achieve in eight sessions, and then Steve O’Keefe showed how improbable that would be as he picked up 6 for 35, his second five-for of the match, to bowl the hosts out for 107 in 33.5 overs to complete a 333-run victory.

O’Keefe’s overall figures — 12 for 70 — is second only to Ian Botham’s 13 for 106 in 1980 as the best figures by an overseas bowler in India while Nathan Lyon chipped in with the remaining four wickets, including the last one, as Australia secured their first win on Indian soil since the Nagpur Test in October 2004.

1st Test: Australia beat India by 333 runs

Australia were bowled out for 285 in an extended morning session in their second innings. R Ashwin finished with 4 for 119 while Ravindra Jadeja picked up the last wicket, that of India’s second-day tormentor O’Keefe, to end with a miserly 3 for 65 in 33 overs. Little did they realise that O’Keefe would be jostling with Smith to be the third-day tormentor as well.

The sinking feeling in the stomach that the Indians might have felt at lunch didn’t go away after the meal either. After two overs from Mitchell Starc, Smith went to O’Keefe and he responded straightaway with the wicket of M Vijay, trapped lbw for 2. Vijay reviewed, but HawkEye showed it would be clipping leg stump.

Four balls later, Nathan Lyon sent KL Rahul on his way too, finding the batsman on the back foot defending and hitting pad first. With him went the last of India’s reviews as well. Wasting two reviews in the space of a few minutes was surprising, to put it mildly; India had spent the better part of the morning without reviews as well until it was topped up in the 81st over of Australia’s innings, but they clearly hadn’t learned their lessons.

It also pointed to where India’s head was at the time. Australia’s was largely in the right place, but it went off a bit when Smith decided to not review when O’Keefe had caught Virat Kohli in a tangle defending on the front foot. The bowler was convinced it was out, but the captain wasn’t entirely sure. Replays, this time, showed it did hit pad and would go on to hit middle.

Normally, visiting teams can’t afford tiny mistakes like that against India’s captain, but such was Australia’s momentum that Kohli, playing for turn soon after, shouldered arms and missed the straighter one from O’Keefe, losing his off stump for 13.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane added 30 runs in between yelps of excitement from Australia’s fielders, but one of those shouts finally materialised in a wicket when Rahane (18) found the man at cover off O’Keefe. The left-arm spinner then got Ashwin out lbw on review – almost showing India how to properly use DRS – to pick up his first ten-wicket haul in five games.



© Reuters

O’Keefe, bowling unchanged, removed Wriddhiman Saha and Pujara (13) on either side of the tea break. Both were out lbw, with Pujara, like Kohli, playing for turn that wasn’t on offer. Lyon then squeezed three wickets after the O’Keefe show to wrap up a famous win to head to the second Test of the four-match series in Bangalore with a 1-0 lead.

Resuming at 143 for 4, the overnight pair of Smith and Mitchell Marsh struck the right balance of vigilance and aggression to keep the scoreboard ticking along. They were able to negotiate Ashwin’s bowling without much fuss, but Jadeja was getting some alarming turn that kept both batsmen watchful.

What hurt India the most was that the fielding continued to be less than stellar, and stellar was what it needed to be after they lost seven wickets for 11 runs to be bowled out for 105 in their first innings and handing Australia the advantage.

A run-out opportunity went begging on the third ball of the day, and Rahane was slightly late to react to grab a thick edge off Ashwin’s bowling. On both occasions, Smith was the batsman. He had been dropped thrice on the second day as well.

Jadeja relieved some of India’s irritation with the wicket of Marsh for 31, getting the batsman to come forward and inducing a thin edge that was pouched by Saha. Strangely, the wicketkeeper didn’t appeal even though the batsman walked off without much hesitation.

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There was also an interesting subplot within the game: India’s calls for reviews, and sometimes the lack of them. Jadeja got one to straighten against Smith, and though it hit pad first, Richard Kettleborough, the umpire, wasn’t sure and indicated as much to an inquiring Virat Kohli. Replays showed that it would have gone on to hit middle.

The frustration continued to build with another appeal turned down – Umesh Yadav pinging Matthew Wade’s helmet, it turned out, when they had appealed for a catch. Wade then toe-ended a delivery from Umesh back to Saha, but the umpire missed it and the batsman stood his ground. India had no reviews left at that stage. Fortunately for India, Wade (20) was on his way four balls later when an attempted drive went awry against the same bowler.

But that only brought Starc to the middle and he gave Smith excellent company with a 42-run partnership for the seventh wicket. Along the way, Smith brought up his maiden Test hundred in India, scampering back for two runs after nudging a ball from Jadeja to deep cover. He has 17 hundreds elsewhere in the world, but this knock would rank right near the top, coming on a tricky pitch against the No. 1 Test team in their backyard when everybody and their dog was predicting a 4-0 drubbing. The satisfaction was writ across Smith’s face as he soaked in the moment, and even a wounded India didn’t begrudge him applause.

Smith finally departed for 109 when the lead had crossed 400, with Jadeja rapping the batsman in front. He reviewed but it was a straightforward dismissal. Starc, however, was at his feisty best with a run-a-ball 30, including three sixes and two fours, before he gave Ashwin his fourth wicket, and Australia were able to add an additional 27 runs to compound India’s misery futher.

Watch: India all out for 105; Steve O'Keefe gets 6 wickets

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