Cricket Column: The awesome tale of a small bite in Indian lethal sting

Sports Wednesday 08/March/2017 16:13 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: The awesome tale of a small bite in Indian lethal sting

Ravichandran Ashwin was the most bankable player and KL Rahul the player of the match at the presentation ceremony at Bengaluru on Tuesday, and both deserved what they got. Rahul knocked up 141 runs—90 in the first innings and 51 in the second — to keep the body of the snake alive and lethal despite Australia snapping off the head twice quite early and easier than they thought it would be. Ashwin smiled evilly many times during his brief second innings spell and the devils at his command tempted the Australians to commit the cardinal sins.
Apart from that, there was the confidence-building fifth-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane that first took the Indian lead from just 33 runs to past 100 and then stretched it to the 151-mark to put smiles back on the face of Virat Kohli.
There were a few other spicy-juicy stuff in India’s recipe for success, such as the brilliant show of fast bowling by Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav in the morning on day two that put the brakes on the Australian march forward, the energy Kohli whipped up and passed onto his mates on the field and the stunning catch Wriddhiman Saha took — plucking the ball that was on course to end up in no man’s land near short leg, to dismiss Matthew Wade.
Small tale
Among the brilliant moments lurked the small tale of 16 runs that stopped the Australian juggernaut. That was scripted by Saha and Ishant Sharma together on day four.
When the last man Sharma joined Saha, Australia were getting a clear view of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Mitchell Starc sent Rahane and Karun Nair back to the dressing room off successive deliveries, and in the next over Josh Hazlewood got Pujara. When Ashwin and Yadav too joined the Indian march back, it was the familiar Indian tale repeating itself: five wickets fell in 18 balls for 20 runs.
Had the Australians got the last wicket in a couple balls and wrapped up the Indian innings well before lunch, David Warner and Matt Renshaw would have walked out to the middle with a different mindset and put the issue beyond the reach of India by the time they took the break. That was the kind of momentum the quick fall of five Indian wickets had handed to Smith and his blokes, and it was the stubborn 57-ball resistance put up by Saha and Sharma that put the brakes, helped India to take lunch in peace and get back to the field with calm nerves.
Strangling the bird
The fifth-wicket partnership between Rahane and Pujara was the other, perhaps the most interesting, story of the second Test that will gain more credit in time than it actually got now. That was really the body of the snake strangling the bird. What they got together —118 runs — was nothing close to the 2001 giant, game-changing kill made by Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who knocked up 376 runs all by themselves, at Kolkata. The individual score of Dravid (180) or Laxman (281) was bigger than the Pujara-Rahnae partnership figure and the Indian innings total at Bengaluru (274) itself was nowhere near the milestone. Still, Pujara’s 92 and Rahane’s 51 was just as destructive.
One obvious similarity between the two milestones is the way it happened for two of the players involved. At Kolkata, Dravid, who normally played at No.3, was dropped down to No. 5, and at Bengaluru Rahane was demoted to No. 6, both owing to a lean patch. This half century may inspire Rahane to get back to his usual, reliable self.
Sixteen years ago, the Australians led by Steve Waugh went back home, having got closer to but not really conquering the final frontier, winning the first Test and losing the next two to concede the series 2-1. At Bengaluru, Smith was just as close as Waugh was at Kolkata. Two more Tests to go, and Smith need to win just one to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and then a draw to win the series. History is nicely poised at the moment to repeat itself or to be created afresh.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman