Day 1, Ranchi Test
There goes another toss. I don’t even know what to expect from this pitch. This smaller-venue-debut strategy by BCCI is sort of brave, actually – given that their own team has no clue what to expect anymore. Maybe they’re doing this to nullify the one-sidedness of the England series and the South African series from last year. Whatever they’re doing, at least it’s making for competitive cricket. Which reminds me – how is Australia so competitive here? It’s not normal. They’ve been the better team over the first two tests, shouldn’t have lost in Bengaluru, and they’ve gotten under our skin repeatedly. This reminds me so much of the 2004 tour down under, where Ganguly led a young Indian team to an almost-series victory over an invincible team in their own backyard. If only Parthiv Patel had held onto that catch in Sydney…
Anyway, if this is another bowling pitch, it’ll be – hey, Warner and Renshaw are speeding like this is a Mumbai flyover. Okay, this is a batting pitch. ‘Slow and low’ is a simile for ‘make merry while the sun shines’. This could well be that ‘Indian’ test we’ve come to love – 5 days of hard cricket before the visiting team melts under pressure in the final session. England would know, hah. Ooh, Warner out to Jadeja this time; at least he’s mixing it up. He’s failed all series, much like Kohli – both Indian T20 league heroes, probably warming up for the long league season ahead. Ugh, here comes Steve Smith – who bats like a spider without wings. I don’t like him. He started as a bowler, and Jadeja started as a batsman, and yet there they are – the no. 1 test batsman and bowler in cricket right now. Weird game, this. I think his lack of aesthetic at the crease shocks the bowlers into submission. Like Chanderpaul used to (or still does, in domestic cricket). He better get dismissed quickly. Oh, there goes young Renshaw – nice innings, though. Openers seem to be making their mark against the Indians this home season. Someone tell Warner that. There goes Shaun Marsh. This looks familiar. Aussies throwing away a good start. I like this. Here comes Maxwell. Maxwell, in a test match. YEAH, RIGHT. All we need is Smith now…yes…
Day 2, Ranchi Test
All we still need is Smith. And Maxwell. And hope. And prayers. What a leech. He’s merciless. Just 4 wickets on the first day. Somebody get a DRS against him so that he looks to the dressing room. Another century. 19, two more than Kohli, and an average of 10 more than Kohli. We know who’s winning this silly battle. Kohli had to choose this tour out of all to lose form in. Four innings in a row – oh God, he’s injured now. Rahane captaining the side is like watching a sleepy conductor letting his orchestra do their own thing. Actually, who is captaining the side right now? Looks like Ashwin – which could be true, given that he has forgotten how to bowl. Ah, if not for Sir Jadeja, this would have been worse. Can’t believe we let Maxwell score a century. This match is gone. We haven’t crossed 300 for the last four innings. There’s no chance we’re going to save this one. They’re already 400 – and the spider is still around. He refuses to get out. He should be disqualified for making batting look so ugly. I hate Matthew Wade. He has no business making a cameo. He is talentless. So is O’Keefe. So is Australia. Oh, Lord, they scored 450. If we lose this, we’re finished. Kohli, please bat with a broken shoulder for all I care. The law of averages says you can’t fail again. 5 in a row would be pathetic. Look at what Smith’s doing. So what if you’re injured? Be the batting Kumble.
Day 3, Ranchi Test
Always nice to have Murali Vijay lull us into submission. He looks so assured, so comfortable, and KL Rahul seems to finally have his sight set on a century. It’s about time too. He is too good – not again. He nicked one! Oh KL, talk about not making your form count. 4 fifties and no century. You little upstart, you. Meanwhile, Pujara needs to survive spin. That’s tough to watch. Ah, 190/1. Things look dandy. Vijay looks good for his mandatory one century per series. WHAT? Are you kidding me? Stumped? In a test match? Drop Vijay now. How can he do that? Why was he lashing out anyway? Did a message come from the dressing room? Pujara, don’t take a leaf from that book. Oh, here comes Kohli. I like his guts. This is what new India is made of. Yes. Well done, Delhi boy. Show them who you are. Oh, are they mocking his shoulder? Well, he’d have done that, too. Caught in the slips. Again. Well, at least he tried. His average is down to 49 now. That is worrying. Smith is 61. Wait, who cares about numbers right now? We’re in trouble. Pujara has to keep staying there. And Rahane needs to – seriously? An upper cut? SERIOUSLY? Why is he even playing cricket? Man, T20 cricket has ruined everything. I need some grit. I need some Pujara…
Day 4, Ranchi Test
Ah, a Sunday. What a perfect Sunday. This Wriddhiman Saha is always proving me wrong. I don’t like his presence in the team – so unglamorous and average. Yet, he scores once a series. And this looks tough. But Pujara and he look so solid – so old-fashioned and test-like. Like Dravid and Laxman. Ah, those days. What a nice, slow partnership. Much needed. We’re taking the lead, oh yes. We’re not losing this test. Bat them out. All we need is one day to roll them over. Less than that, even, given that England collapsed so often on our pitches. This is where we want them. Day 5, 130 behind, 8 wickets in hand, yes. This is classic Indian test cricket. Cornering the opposition the way we like them. And then unleashing our no. 1 ranked spinners onto them, with close-in fielders, chirping, sledging and Kohli. Surely, they’re going to wilt. Even Smith can’t do much this time, given that he was too scared to come out and bat today. He sent poor Lyon as the night watchman. Why do batsmen need protection anyway? Why are they batsmen then? Do bowlers make batsmen bowl the last few overs of the day to protect their average? No.
Day 5, Ranchi Test
I can’t stop laughing. Smith let that one go. He “shouldered” his arms to a Jadeja turner. That looks awful – even worse when someone like Smith lets it go. Good, I hate the guy. He looks so shocked. India is laughing at him. Never mind that he played one of the greatest innings by a visiting batsman a day ago. Here comes bunny Shaun Marsh. He is so nervous in the beginning. It’s only a matter of time. 2 wickets in the first session is good. It’s great for us. The two big ones. Marsh and Handscomb can’t do much now.
They’re STILL batting. It’s almost tea time. I cannot believe they’ve done a Pujara on us. Pujara batted 11 hours, broke records, but this one hurts. Two Australian middle-order batsmen actually saving a test. In India. On a fifth day pitch. Against Jadeja and Ashwin (sort of). Ashwin looks terrible. He is bowling like a high-school spinner. So slow through the air. Learn from Jadeja. Be like Sir. But I guess it’s over now. If they bat an hour after tea, we’re done for. As in, it’ll be a draw. But a loss for us, given where we were yesterday. Actually, after conceding 450 in the first innings and fighting back, this is exactly where we deserve to be. They’re fighting hard. I like that. I hate them, but I like their skill here. This is how test cricket should be. This is how draws should be. 5 days, punches traded, comebacks made and ending with a handshake. Well played, you two. This is a fair result. I think. If only Ashwin had showed up. We’re 1-1 without Kohli contributing at all with the bat. I’m happy about that. But we’re 1-1 against Australia at home, going into the final test on a pitch hosting a test for the first time. Maybe Dharamshala’s scenery will distract the Aussies. It’s all or nothing now. Comes down to 1 match. A series loss will be shocking for us. But we’re being outplayed. Over time. By a good team. This is what cricket needs. Not a home team rolling over an away team again. But did it HAVE to be in INDIA?!