Virat Kohli’s India may have to ‘chase down’ history to reel in first Test

Virat Kohli scored a duck in the first innings but India will hope he fires along with others if they want to rewrite major Test history by beating Australia in the first Test after having conceded a lead of 298 runs.

cricket Updated: Feb 24, 2017 23:46 IST
N Ananthanarayan
N Ananthanarayan
New Delhi
Virat Kohli,Steve O'Keefe,India v Australia
Virat Kohli has of India on action against Bangladesh during the 4th day test between India and Bangladesh at Uppal stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.PTI Photo(PTI2_12_2017_000067A)(PTI)

When the first few deliveries in the first Test against Australia saw puffs of dust come off a bone dry Pune pitch on Thursday, the early consensus was India’s spinners would have a field day. (Pune Test, Day 2 highlights)

Read more | Steve Smith, Steve O’Keefe put Australia on top against India in Pune Test

After a sensational batting collapse on Day 2 (105) triggered Australia left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, India have conceded an overall 298-run lead to Australia --- the visitors are 143/4 in the second innings --- the hosts face a massive battle to avoid going 1-0 down in the opening match of the four-Test series.

Read more | Steve Smith, Matt Renshaw slip through India’s hands as Australia take control

Unless Indian bowlers produce a magical spell of bowling to dismiss Australia early on Saturday, the hosts could be staring at a huge fourth-innings target.

Only once before has a fourth-innings total of 300 plus been achieved in India. The hosts overhauled 387 set by England in the first Test in 2008. But that win was set up by a whirlwind knock by Virender Sehwag (68-ball 83) before Sachin Tendulkar (103 no) and Yuvraj Singh (85 no) raised an unbroken 163-run stand for the fifth wicket to take India home.

Crucially, then England were only hoping to draw. Here, Australia scent blood after few gave them any chance coming into this series.

Compared to that MA Chidambaram stadium pitch, the MCA Stadium track is affording sharp turn with deliveries by spinners taking off from good length. On Friday, Ravindra Jadeja repeatedly beat Aussie skipper Steve Smith but wasn’t lucky.

Read more | Steve O’Keefe’s success in Pune not overnight, he planned long and hard for it

Besides, O’Keefe will be on a high after running through the Indian batting, claiming 6/35. India lost seven wickets to spin.

India will have to tackle more than a deteriorating pitch. Opener KL Rahul, the only home batsman to get to fifty, has a shoulder injury. Skipper Virat Kohli’s first innings duck will be weighing on the team’s mind and Ajinkya Rahane’s frailty against spin was again exposed.

First Published: Feb 24, 2017 21:01 IST