Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja came to the party in the Bangalore Test last week, but what caught Australia by surprise was the sheer intent of India’s pace duo, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.
After wrapping up the game in four days, Virat Kohli said he expected the Ranchi pitch, where the third game starts on Thursday, to play “slow and low” as usual.
But that is unlikely to shake the skipper’s faith in playing the two fast bowlers, who were the unsung heroes and produced a coming-of-age performance on a spin-friendly Chinnaswamy Stadium track.
Although India pacers, barring exception, have in the past been content to play the support role at home as the spinners go to work, Steven Smith’s Australia has this time worked extra hard for that scenario.
India went into the second day in Bangalore with Australia 40/0 after dismissing the hosts for 189 in the first innings. But Ishant and Umesh produced sensational containment spells. Though Australia lost only six wickets, they scored less than 200 runs and the hosts had turned things around.
In the second innings, Kohli took off Jadeja after one over at a crucial stage and brought back Umesh, the man who has soldiered on through the last two seasons. He delivered two quick blows, which turned the match India’s way.
Kohli acknowledged the disciplined second day’s bowling for the momentum change. “Someone has to step up and do the job. Jadeja was outstanding in the first innings along with our fast bowlers.
Their spell again was very, very good, relentless pressure from one end by Umesh and Ishant and then Jadeja picking up those wickets later on.
“Those are the kind of things you need as a team to c hange the tide that’s going against you.”
While visiting teams instinctively focus on pace with a horses-for-courses approach for spin, India think spin first at home. But the spin-pace balance has changed over the last three seasons.
Mohammed Shami’s ability to swing and reverse, and bowl at a consistently good pace, with the new ball or old, has made a big difference. At the West Indies, he bowled the most number of overs among pacers, 93. While 11/284 in four Tests may not by itself look great, his economy rate of 3.05 will.
Ishant bowled 84 overs, at an economy rate of 3.05, and Umesh, who played only two Tests, conceded just over three runs per over.
In Bangalore, with just 187 runs to defend, the Australia batsmen struggled to attack Umesh or Ishant. The two things that have gone with their consistency is their patience and fitness.
Kohli said, “We don’t take too much load. You want a wicket to fall, and sitting outside you think why it isn’t falling. But a bowler knows it is coming. That’s the difference in mindset between people outside and us. If we think the same, we’ll become frustrated.”
It was the Australia batsmen who got frustrated.
“Umesh and Ishant were very good, particularly in the first innings. They hit the good areas consistently and challenged our defence a lot,” said Australia skipper Smith. “It was very hard to score off them and they looked dangerous of taking wickets. That’s were I think we were just fractionally off.”