A lot has been spoken and written about Australia’s atrocious shot selection, which has been the key behind India taking an unconquerable 2-0 lead in the series and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
But this time India’s problems against spin also need a mention. Rather, more than a mention. The Holkar Stadium pitch in Indore for the third Test, too, seems to be overtly spin-friendly, the ball keeping low with the odd one shooting up. India found that too hot to handle, getting bundled out for 109 in their first innings after dancing to the tune of left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann (5/16) and the experienced Nathan Lyon (3/35).
At stumps on Wednesday, Australia were 156/4 with a lead of 47. Peter Handscomb (7) and all-rounder Cameron Green (6) will resume proceedings on Day II after Ravindra Jadeja (4/63) took all four Australian wickets to have fallen so far. It was Jadeja again who kept India’s hopes alive in this Test, dismissing Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Usman Khawaja (60) and stand-in captain Steve Smith.
There are no second thoughts on how tough scoring has been even on the first day of the Test. But that said, India’s batsmen have grown up playing on similar surfaces. So the inability to last even two sessions on such a pitch— that too, after batting first on winning a good toss — further reflects the frailties of India’s current generation of batsmen if visiting team spinners bowl with discipline and maintain a proper line and length.
A rush of adrenaline cost captain Rohit Sharma his wicket, which was also Kuhnemann’s first. The left-armer, bowling with a lot of control in only his second Test, then got one to turn just a bit away that had KL Rahul’s replacement Shubman Gill (21) taken at slip.
Poor application also went to hurt India. What shot Cheteshwar Pujara tried to play even after the ball from Lyon turned in sharply is something only he can explain. Virat Kohli (22) was looking solid. But again, in an almost similar manner to his dismissal in Nagpur, he fell lbw to young off-spinner Todd Murphy, missing the line of the ball completely.
Making matters worse for India, their lower order failed to contribute this time although Axar Patel stayed unbeaten. Kuhnemann bowled a beauty to dismiss Ravichandran Ashwin soon after lunch, and it required meaty blows from Umesh Yadav (replacing Mohammed Shami) to ensure that India crossed 100. Though Khawaja perished off the sweep after avoiding it for a good part of his knock, the visitors have so far looked more resilient.