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The second Test between India and Australia in Delhi saw the home side defeat the visitors by six wickets inside three days. And by ‘saw’, I mean, ‘vaguely gleaned through the smog that engulfed the city’.Here’s the report card for the second Test.Dealing with First Test AftermathGrade: BFollowing their big defeat in the first Test, Australia had a lot of factors to consider heading into the second.Should they play more spinners? Go back to their fast bowlers? Rush Cameron Green back into the eleven to help balance the side? Select more right-handers? Or revert to left-handers?
Almost too many options to weigh up.In the end, the selectors decided on two changes: Travis Head returning in place of Matt Renshaw, and Scott Boland missing out in favour of the left-arm spinner Matt Kuhnemann. The selection met with predictable criticism. Why, for example, didn’t Australia simply go with the following XI?WarnerKhawajaLabuschagneSmithHeadRenshawGreenHandscombCarey (wk)AgarStarcCummins (c)MurphyLyonKuhnemannHazlewoodMorrisBolandMissed a trick there, for sure.Arthur FonzarelliGrade: F
Batting first, Australia stammered and stumbled their way to 263 all out. Khawaja was the backbone of the early part of the innings, scoring a fun-filled 81, before he was Kaught Ludicrously by KL Rahul.The back portion of the innings then saw Peter Handscomb add 95 runs with the last four wickets, courtesy primarily of Pat Cummins, who tonked a few sixes into the crowd.But the highlight of the innings was surely Steve Smith, who refused to take on board Allan Border’s pre-match demand that he stop thumbs-upping the India bowlers and instead rode to the middle on a motorcycle, wearing a leather jacket, giving thumbs up to everybody he saw, like some demented Fonz. He then immediately jumped a shark, caught behind from Ashwin’s second ball. Concussed Hairline Fractures of the ElbowGrade: C-
On the second morning, Pat Cummins took on board my day one suggestion that Australia take the game to India via the simple tactic of playing more than eleven cricketers in the Test.Follow-up testing after David Warner’s battered innings the day before revealed that the Australian opener now had a concussed hairline fracture of the elbow, and was therefore out of the Test.An opportunity for Australia? Would Mitchell Starc be deemed a like-for-like replacement? Common sense said: yes. Instead, Matt Renshaw – a man who simply refuses to play Test cricket normally – was summoned into the match. Not that this appeased Sunil Gavaskar in commentary, who finds concussion substitutes a modern-day disgrace.With Border furious at Steve Smith for thumbs-upping the India bowlers and Gavaskar claiming that concussion substitutes are a reward for not being able to play the short ball, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is surely now the most boomer prize in world cricket. David Warner walks off after he was dismissed by Mohammed Shami. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)GOAT Attacks
Grade: B-Once play started on the second day, Australia immediately burnt all three of their reviews in the opening half an hour.At first, fans back home were thinking ‘What is Cummins doing? Why don’t Australia simply review the ones that are out and not review the ones that aren’t out?’But Cummins knew it didn’t matter. Nathan Lyon didn’t need reviews. Oh, sure, he missed out on a wicket because Cummins refused to use one on a rejected LBW shout against Cheteshwar Pujara that was going on to hit the stumps, but that was all part of the master plan.After all, what could be more humiliating for Pujara than being out for a pair in the first innings of his hundredth Test? Because that’s what happened a few balls later when Lyon trapped him yet again, still without a run on the board and with the umpire this time getting the ole finger out.“Excuse me, Delhi police? I’d like to report a GOAT attack.”But just when Australia thought they might take a lead of more than a hundred into the second innings, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin put on a magnificent 114-run partnership to drag the match back India’s way.
The pair got within ten runs of Australia’s total before Australia found the key to dismissing them. That key? Taking outlandish catches.First, Renshaw snaffled one off a new ball loosener from Cummins on Ashwin’s pads. Then Cummins chipped in with a terrified grab of a powerfully hit Axar straight swat. Combined with Peter Handscomb’s earlier improbable grab at short leg, it proved the age-old cricketing axiom: No reviews = clear minds = safe hands.In my opinion, Australian fielders should keep taking freak catches if they want to win. Good game plan. Worth persevering with.Fulfilling Briefs
Grade: CAustralia’s one-run first innings lead gave them leeway to bat like kings in their second innings, and they proceeded to do so on the third day, sweeping wildly from an overnight score of 1/61 to 113 all out. Nobody was innocent. Well, except perhaps for Matt Renshaw, who perfectly fulfilled the brief of batting like a concussed David Warner. He made two before being trapped LBW by Ashwin, bringing to an end the R Ashwin v Renshaw tussle, one of the great near-anagram cricket battles.Ashwin (3/59) and Ravindra Jadeja (7/42) took all ten wickets to fall, bewildering the Australian batters on a pitch with faltering bounce. And yet, I have exclusively learned that this pair – India’s so-called ‘spin twins’ – are not only not twins, but aren’t even siblings! Come on, India. Enough shenanigans.
The visitors’ collapse to 113 all out might have seemed bad, but their first-innings lead meant India needed 115 to win, rather than 114. Advantage Australia. Or, as it turned out, not, as India completed a six-wicket victory to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.Frankly, if we’re going to blame anyone for this defeat, we should blame that guy who turned 50 and invited Glenn Maxwell to his party.