Tuesday 27 June 2017 / 06:46 PM

INDIA AND AUSTRALIA SITTING ON A POWDERKEG

The second Test of the Border-Gavaskar series in Bangalore saw some fantastic cricket from both sides in a tough and tense encounter fitting of this rivalry between two modern cricketing superpowers.

There was KL Rahul’s dual half centuries, Nathan Lyon’s stunning eight wicket haul, Shaun Marsh and Matt Renshaw’s stubborn sixties, Ravindra Jadeja’s, Ravi Ashwin’s and Josh Hazlewood’s brilliant six fors and Chetshwar Pujara’s and Ajinkya Rahane’s resistance to name just a few! But the Test match will live long in the memory for the fiery tempers and tense atmosphere.

Whether it is Virat Kohli’s vociferous celebrations, his press conference post game, or Steve Smith’s ‘brain fade,’ the second Test will be remembered for so much more than the cricket.

The match itself was a tense and see-sawing affair played on a pitch that was guaranteed to produce a result and a stern test of technique and temperament for the batsmen on both sides. Test cricket is so much better when the batsmen are challenged.

After the pitch in Pune was rated poor by the ICC all eyes were on the 22 yards in the middle of the M Chinaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Days out from the game the pitch appeared very green, but come time for the toss it was a more typically dry Indian surface that deteriorated as the game went on and started to turn and provide variable bounce. Most importantly, it made for an engrossing contest between two talented but flawed teams between whom there is no love lost.

The history of distaste for each other goes back to Sourav Ganguly’s reign as India captain when the skipper’s lateness and attire at the toss would annoy Australian captain Steve Waugh. Waugh believed Ganguly to be arrogant and unpleasant. What Ganguly did do was instill confidence, passion, aggression and fighting qualities into what was a very talented Indian side.

Virat Kohli is very much in the Ganguly mould, and this countered with the Australian’s natural aggression and hardness makes for a brilliant and hard fought contest between two passionate teams unwilling to take a backwards step in the battle for supremacy. Kohli’s revving up of the vocal home crowd and his confrontational demeanour played a big part in getting his side to lift mentally and come back from the embarrassing disaster in Pune.

Steve Smith’s Australia were high on confidence after Pune but they knew the Indians would bounce back hard. Australia would have been thrilled to take a first innings lead in Bangalore and pile the pressure on India, but when Ravi Jadeja wrapped up the Australian innings on the third morning momentum was beginning to turn in the home side’s favour.

KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane took this momentum and began to run with it in India’s second innings, managing to overcome the pitch and some hard cricket from the visitors, accompanied by plenty of send offs and sledging. Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc’s fantastic spells with the second new ball gave Australia a chance but a chase of 188 on fast wearing fourth day pitch was always going to be a tough ask.

Their task was made tougher when Smith was dismissed by an Umesh Yadav shooter which sparked the Australian captain’s brain fade. Smith, in consultation with batting partner Pete Handscomb, looked towards the away dressing room for advice on whether he should review his LBW dismissal. Smith’s actions did not escape the eyes of umpire Nigel Llong who immediately dismissed any chances of Smith being allowed to review. This incident also sparked Kohli into a fury with the Indian captain charging in to protest his opposite number’s actions.

The tenseness of the situation and heightened emotions appeared to bring the best out of India’s leading spinner Ravi Ashwin. The number one ranked bowler had been well below his best so far in the series and had been comprehensively outbowled by his off-spinning opposite number, Nathan Lyon. A pumped up Ashwin ran through Australia’s lower order to lead India to a 75 run victory, and more importantly tying the series at 1-1 with two to play.

The post-match had almost as many highlights as the Test itself with the Indian skipper describing the victory as his sweetest ever before taking shots at Smith for his DRS blunder as well as former Australian wicket keeper Ian Healy after the cricket commentator had claimed he was losing respect for Kohli due to his behaviour.

So far both Test matches have seen some fascinating cricket and plenty of passion and agro from both sides. With the series on the line heading into Ranchi and everything to play for it’s doubtful we’ve seen the last of the verbals, send offs and high tempered drama.

Whatever your views on the behaviour of the players in this series there is no doubting their passion and what winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy means to them, and it makes for fantastic viewing.

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About the author

Akash Fotedar

Akash is a Perth-based sportswriter and journalist who has come on board with Commentary Box Sports to provide expert cricket, AFL and tennis coverage. An experienced cricketer, Akash has played three seasons in England as an overseas pro and is still active in grade cricket in WA.

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