Chinaman in the bullring

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 Mar 2017 09:22:33


By Satish Viswanathan,

DHARAMSALA,

Mar 25,

Debutant Kuldeep takes 4, Australia all-out for 300 on Day 1

THREE hundred runs in a day is normally considered to be good for the batting team but if you have lost all ten wickets in the process, things get more complicated. Consider this, no injury worries, another crucial toss won, yet another century from their skipper Steve Smith and still Australia would be unsure about calling it a successful day.


It was just that kind of an opening day at Test cricket’s latest venue, one of its more picturesque ones at that. And all mainly because of a debutant left-arm spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, boldly included in place of his captain and the side’s leading batsman Virat Kohli, who failed a fitness test. But youth knows no fear these days in India and there was the 22-year-old from Uttar Pradesh mixing up his chinamans, wrong ‘uns and the odd flipper to have the Australians in a bind.


It was all so different in the first session which ended with the visitors on a commanding 131 for 1. Promising opener Matt Renshaw had gone early, castled by a fast inswinger from Umesh Yadav but his senior partner David Warner, having been dropped by Karun Nair at third slip off the first ball of the Test bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (playing in place of Ishant Sharma) and Smith had done the consolidation first and then dominated even.


Things changed soon and how. Kuldeep, brought on for this first bowl just before lunch, had been taught the flipper by his hero Shane Warne, and Warner (56) just happened to the first victim of a lesson well taught
and learnt. Warner’s maiden fifty of the series had come with an edge off Kuldeep, indicating he was having some trouble reading the youngster’s wares, but this edge was easily held by India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane.


The Indians, until then sent on a leather hunt by the second wicket duo, with Smith (111; 226m, 173b, 14x4) being the dominant partner enroute to his 20th Test century (he now has seven tons from his last eight Tests against India), were back in the game. In a literal trice, Kuldeep pulled out all his tricks to consume Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell, all three of whom had contributed handsomely to Australia’s cause in the third Test at Ranchi.


The Maxwell dismissal was easily the best. Two wrong ‘uns, where the ball leaves the right-hander as opposed to his stock chinaman which comes in like an off-spinner, left Maxwell puzzled. The first, pitched well up, was lofted against the spin for a boundary but the next one was dropped just a little shorter and Maxwell just stood and watched as the ball spun past his bat and hit off-stump.
Suddenly, 144 for 2 had become 178 for 5 with Smith very much there even if baffled at what was happening at the opposite end. The Australian captain was batting at a different pace in this Test as compared to the last three Tests because the ball was coming on nicely even taking the liberty of playing the fast bowlers from off to leg on numerous occasions.


A little later Smith himself was done in, this time by India’s most experienced spinner R Ashwin. Not at his best in the morning, Ashwin was finally getting the ball to do his bidding, inspired perhaps by Kuldeep’s showing and Smith fell victim during that phase, falling for the turn that wasn’t there, only for Rahane to bring off a sharp catch.


The Australian fight wasn’t over though, both these teams have shown us that they won’t go down easily, and the tail wagged with the support of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. Pat Cummins (21) took to the long handle and Wade (57), too, took his chances as the Aussies fought their
way to 300, leaving the Indians with one over to bat out in
the evening.


That one over was both eventful and uneventful. Josh Hazlewood failed to make opener KL Rahul play enough but then the manner in which the ball thudded into Wade’s hands on the four occasions Rahul left the ball alone, would have been noted by both camps.
Over to Day 2 then.