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Memoirs of Pune: When Australia thumped India on a ‘poor’ pitch

With a clinical 203-run win in the first Test at Vizag, Team India has successfully begun their Test series against South Africa. Now, as they move to the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, Virat Kohli & co. will be haunted by the memories of 2017 at this very venue. In the solitary Test match played here, India were subjected to a thrashing by the visiting Australians. The match finished in less than three days and the pitch was rated ‘poor’ by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

India vs Australia, 2017: Here’s what happened

Australia toured India for the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2017 for a four-match series, the first of which was held at Pune. It was a dry pitch that provided ample assistance to spin bowlers from Day 1. Given India’s prowess in the spin department, it should’ve been a walk in the park for the hosts. But India were trapped in their own den as Australia’s Steven O’Keefe ran riot with his left-arm spin web, picking 12 wickets in the match. And if that wasn’t enough damage, then Australia captain Steve Smith rose to the occasion and scored a majestic hundred in the second innings.

After the winning the toss on a spin-friendly track, Australia chose to bat first and were all-out on 260. Opener Matt Renshaw top-scored with 68, while tailender Mitchell Starc scored a crucial 61. Despite the three-pronged spin attack of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav, the Aussies managed to get a decent total on the board. At first, it looked like an easy number to surpass for India. But it wasn’t to be.

The infamous Indian collapse

India’s first innings lasted all of 40.1 overs, with Australia bundling out the hosts for a paltry 105. Opener KL Rahul was the only Indian batsman to register a half-century but eventually succumbed to O’Keefe’s brilliant spell. With six wickets in the first innings, the Aussie left-armer broke the back of India’s batting order. This was also one of the rare occasions when the Indian captain Virat Kohli fell for a duck.

Steve Smith Masterclass

At a time the Indian batsmen were struggling in their own home conditions, Smith ensured he moved one more step towards batting greatness. His knock of 109 was instrumental in Australia extending their lead further. With handy contributions to support their captain, Australia’s middle-order continued to frustrate the Indian bowlers. The visitors were all-out on 285, setting India a steep target of 441 by the stroke of lunch on Day 3.

With two and a half days still left in the Test, a result was imminent. All India had to do was bat with caution on a deteriorating wicket against two turners of the ball. But to India’s own horror, their batsmen couldn’t even last an entire session and were decimated on 107. Cheteshwar Pujara was the only batsman to show some resistance with his 58-ball 31. O’Keefe was once again at the centre of Australia’s attack, repeating his performance from the first innings. The 333-run defeat was India’s second-biggest loss in their Test cricket history.

India take on South Africa in the 2nd Test at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune starting October 10.

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