We didn’t preview this India v Australia test series thinking there would be nothing new to say. On the one hand you had Steve Smith’s unfancied Australia, which had lost 0-3 in Sri Lanka six months ago and had been dubbed by Bhajji as the “weakest Australian team to ever visit India” and by Dada as most likely to go down 0-4. On the other side stood Kohli’s mighty Indian test outfit – a captain who had never lost a game in India and a team which was unbeaten in 19 test matches (home and away). The test teams of Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh had all been swept aside at various points in the last two and a half years. Before going into the Pune test against Australia, India hadn’t lost a test match at home since December 2012 – a 20 match unbeaten streak at home.
But these two mighty cricketing nations have a special relationship, based primarily on spoiling each others’ parties. In the greatest moment in Indian test history, the Laxman/Dravid/Bhajji miracle ended Australia’s 16 match winning streak at Kolkata in 2001. Australia then conquered the “Final Frontier” in 2004, bringing India’s unbeaten run at home to end. Again, in 2008, India famously brought another Aussie 16 match winning streak to an end by winning at the WACA in Perth when no one gave them a chance.
So, in case you’ve been working for a living or living under a rock, Australia has won the first test match at Pune by 333 runs within three days, bringing Kohli and India’s streaks to an end. India have been paid back in their own coin.
It was almost like the roles of past skirmishes had been reversed. Steve O’Keefe, an unheralded spinner, emerged from the shadows to lead the charge to victory (a la 2001, Bhajji in Kumble’s absence). Led by the skipper, the Australian batsman batted with patience and application, putting away ego and their bowlers kept their mouths shut and used all their energy to take wickets. Finally, in stark contrast to India’s missed opportunities, their close catching was nothing short of spectacular. Coming into the series as underdogs, Australia just looked like they wanted it more.
Test cricket in India this season was taking on a bit of a sameness – bat long, bat big, spin the opposition out. The Pune test match has certainly stirred things up. India have been embarrassed badly and an interesting series beckons.
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