India must have been licking their lips when they turned up in Pune on Day 1 knowing that Australia would have to combat a wicket that would produce inconsistent bounce and turn due to it’s dryness but three days later, they are feeling a somewhat different emotion.
There was no doubt that Steve O’Keefe was the star with the ball for Australia. The thirty-two year old, left arm spinner was allowed to bowl a fuller length by the Indian batsmen who surely could have used their feet more whilst playing him. Instead, they let O’Keefe reap a reward of twelve wickets in the match due to a consistent line and length paired with a decent amount of turn.
It has been a sensational turn around for O’Keefe, who had to leave Australia’s last tour of the sub-continent in Sri Lanka after tearing his right hamstring meaning that this tour is realistically his last chance to stake a claim for a regular spot in this Australian side – especially with leg-spinner, Adam Zampa knocking even harder on the door in recent times.
What was even more impressive about O’Keefe was the work he has put in prior to this series. Instead of turning out for his Big Bash side, the Sydney Sixers – O’Keefe went to refine his red ball skills as well as preserve himself due to his retched recent injury record. Of course, the performance O’Keefe put in this last test is the perfect example of preparation meeting opportunity.
Though O’Keefe may well get all the plaudits, Steve Smith’s second innings hundred should not go unnoticed. Smith is always an impressive individual and his performance in this first test showed him to be one of the best current leaders in International Cricket. Matt Renshaw also impressed in both innings despite carrying a stomach bug through out the test match and things are currently looking positive for the Aussies.
The only thing they need to wary of is a mandatory Virat Kohli double hundred in a test series, and they could well cause an upset in this series.
It was interesting to watch the contrast in batting approaches across the international cricket matches on view today.
At one end of the scale we saw England lose eight wickets and score eight runs inside nineteen deliveries too lose the third T20 international by 75 runs. At the other end of the scale we saw Faf du Plessis and David Miller put together a one hundred and seventeen run partnership to propel South Africa from 108-4 too 225-5, which laid the foundation for a total of 307-6.
Although the new brand of one day cricket is to be attacking and exciting at all times and to try and score as many runs as you can whilst taking as little time as possible to get yourself in, the question begs to be asked that has the art of digging in gone away from limited overs cricket?
When an Australia or a New Zealand or even this young, dynamic England side come out all guns blazing and put close to four-hundred on the board in limited overs cricket, it all looks very good for the game. The worrying thing is when it doesn’t come off which has become regular on pitches that should not cause as many problems as they are causing. The application of batting is a lot to be desired across International cricket and to see du Plessis and Miller apply it today was very refreshing.
Of course, there is always a time and a place to play a certain way and no player should ever delve away from their natural game but sometimes it is okay to bide your time in One-Day cricket, and just catch up later. You never know a hundred struck at under a run a ball in a one day innings could still be the innings that wins the game for the team.
What a year David Warner has had, the Australian vice captain led the Sunrisers Hyderabad to IPL glory before unleashing a Summer which saw him amass 592 runs in Tests at 53.82 and complete three centuries in seven ODI’s (five in his last ten overall).
Warner and his Australian team mates now embark on a tour to India, who are in pretty good form under the leadership of King Kohli after beating England 4-0 in their four match series. There were times where India looked like they were playing a different pitch to England and that is due to the sub-continent conditions being so alien to the English.
Australia themselves don’t have such a hot record in Asia, they have only won one test since they toured Bangladesh in 2006 – which came in Galle in 2011 and most recently they lost 3-0 to a Rangana Herath inspired Sri Lankan side.
Working out a methodology in playing spin will be the make or break for the Australians this series and Warner will be key in developing his own technique against spin, he has not scored an overseas in over two years and if Australia are to win in India – Warner will have to fire.
The importance of Warner is intensified when it is considered the inexperience of this Australian side, only Steve Smith can also claim he has had success in Asia and with Smith and Warner being the only two players in the Australian to have scored centuries in the sub-continent, their contributions will be vital. This is even more so the case when you consider the inexperience of players such as Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscombe in the sub-continent.
Warner will go into the India series in wonderful form and Steve Smith has encouraged him to go big, if Warner does so – Australia may well break the eleven year wait to win a test series in Asia. He undoubtedly has the talent to succeed in Asia, now it’s just a case of doing it.