By: Eastern Eye Staff
Left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe picked up a career-best six for 35 to help Australia take command of the first test against India after 15 wickets fell on a bowler-dominated second day of the contest on Friday (24).
Playing only his fifth test and first in India, O’Keefe took all his wickets in the space of 24 deliveries, including three in an over, to trigger a spectacular collapse and help Australia bundle out India for 105 in their first innings.
Australia took a first innings lead of 155, a significant advantage on a spin-friendly track at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, which is making its debut as a test centre.
The touring side, who have lost their last nine tests in Asia and were considered underdogs before the start of the four-match series, reached 143 for four at stumps in their second innings, an overall lead of 298 runs.
Captain Steve Smith was unbeaten after a chance-filled 59, during which he was dropped three times, with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh 21 not out.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up three quick wickets to boost India’s hopes of restricting Australia to a low second innings total but Smith and Matt Renshaw (31) then added 52 for the fourth to boost the touring side.
Replying to Australia’s 260, the world’s top-ranked side, unbeaten in their previous 19 tests, lost their last seven wickets for 11 runs as O’Keefe ran through their batsmen to pick up his maiden five-wicket haul.
India’s meltdown started after lunch when opener Lokesh Rahul fell to O’Keefe’s bowling.
Rahul, who was top scorer for his side with 64, collapsed immediately after playing the shot, clutching his left shoulder and looking as if he was in pain.
The dismissal ended a fourth-wicket stand of 50 between Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane and what followed was a procession of batsmen returning to the pavilion.
Two deliveries later, Rahane was out for 13 off O’Keefe, who also dismissed wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha in the same over.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon picked up Ashwin in the next over before O’Keefe wrapped things up with the dismissals of Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav and Umesh Yadav.
Australia paceman Mitchell Starc earlier ripped through India’s top order with two wickets in three balls.
Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for six, while India captain and batting mainstay Virat Kohli was despatched for a two-ball duck on a wicket favouring both pace and spin.
Following Kohli’s lead, Australia skipper Steve Smith used O’Keefe as early as the second over on the dry pitch.
O’Keefe was largely ineffective with the new ball, however, before right-arm paceman Josh Hazlewood came on to break India’s opening stand in his first over when he induced Murali Vijay into edging a catch behind for 10.
Starc dismissed Pujara with a rising delivery that brushed the batsman’s glove and sailed through to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
The sparse crowd appeared indifferent to Pujara’s dismissal as they anticipated the arrival of the popular Kohli, who recently became the first batsman to hit four double-centuries in as many consecutive series.
Onlookers were stunned to silence two balls later when the right-hander chased a full and wide delivery from Starc to offer up a routine slip catch for his fifth duck in 93 innings and first since August 2014.[TheChamp-Sharing]