If Test match batting were to be displayed at its nadir, there wouldn’t be a better example than what Australia displayed on the third day of the second Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds on Sunday. It saw them lose the second Test by six wickets, giving India a 2-0 unassailable lead in the four-Test series and helping them retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Having held the upper hand going into the third day, the visiting Aussie batsmen looked edgy, played impatiently and came up with unclassical strokes in their bid to break the shackles imposed by the accurate Indian spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, to be all out for 113 in second innings in just 31.1 overs.
The old school virtue of batting time in the face of good, tight bowling was lost on Australia as they found scoring tough and went for creative strokes to score runs, best suited for T20 cricket.
Even after the first hour of the day, they seemed to be in the game at 95 for three, despite having lost opener Travis Head (43) to an Ashwin delivery that turned and brushed the edge of his bat, and Steve Smith (9), who missed a sweep shot off the off-spinner and was dismissed on umpire’s call.
But 95 turned out to be the score at which a procession of batsmen returned to the pavilion as the visiting team lost four wickets on it. From 95/3, they were reduced to 95/7 in a space of 10 deliveries.
Marnus Labuschagne (35) was bowled off a straight delivery that kept low, Matt Renshaw (2), the concussion substitute of David Warner, was leg-before off Ashwin, one of the first-innings heroes Peter Handscomb (0) was caught in slip off a Jadeja delivery that turned while skipper Pat Cummins (0) was bowled while trying to sweep.
Barring the deliveries to Head and Handscomb, none of the others seemed to challenge the Australian batsmen and they simply fell to injudicious shots.
With a lack of ability to play down the ground, the Australians fell trying to work the ball square.
Australian skipper Pat Cummins acknowledged the error committed by his batsmen and said, “I thought they (Jadeja and Ashwin) bowled really well but a couple of our players went away from their methods… Unfortunately, quite a few of our players got out to cross-batted shots which may not have been our preferred method of batting.”
Ravindra Jadeja, who is returning from injury in this series, was the star of the day as he added six more to the overnight wicket of Usman Khawaja to finish with 10/110 for the match.
Captain Rohit Sharma lavished praise on the all-rounder, who had taken a seven-wicket haul in the last game, saying, “Comebacks are not easy but the confidence that guy has in his ability, that is massive and you can see that out on the field. There were times when he was put under pressure on the field but there was no sense of panic from him.”
Sharma added that the Indian bowlers, including Jadeja, were put under the pump on Saturday evening as Australia had raced to 61/1 forcing bowlers to make too many changes in the field due to panic. But he said that they sorted it out after a brief chat in the morning.
“I told them to just keep calm and not make too many changes on the field and keep things tight,” Sharma said after the game.
The bowlers obliged and while Jadeja took seven in the innings (and a tenner for the match) to earn the man of the match award, Ashwin took the key early wickets of Head and Smith to finish with 3/59.
The 115-run target proved too little for India. Even though they lost KL Rahul (1) early again, skipper Rohit Sharma (31 off 20 balls) played aggressively to set the platform. He was run out but his quick contribution and those of Virat Kohli (20), Shreyas Iyer (12), Cheteshwar Pujara (31 not out) and KS Bharat (23 not out) saw the Indian team through to the six-wicket win.