Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Ranchi Test: 5 talking points


The Ranchi test ended in a stalemate after five gruelling days of high-octane cricket. Australia dug in deep to snatch a draw from what looked like a certain defeat on the fourth evening. With the deadlock not yet broken, the action now moves to Dharamshala for the winner takes all finale starting Saturday. Before we move on, let us have a look at five talking points from the Ranchi Test.

  1. Smith and Maxwell’s tons:

Smith and Maxwell during their partnership.

Steve Smith had saved Australia the blues in Pune with a brilliant hundred in testing conditions. He took it a notch further with his second ton of this series here in Ranchi on a good batting track. He remained undefeated on 178, missing out on a well-deserved double. Glen Maxwell gave him company for many parts of his innings, scoring his maiden ton. Questions were raised about Maxwell’s ability to survive the longer format and his subsequent selection. He had never survived for more than 100 balls in a test innings but he silenced his staunchest critics with a patient 104 off 185 balls. Their partnership of 191 ensured Australia scored a respectable 451 in the first innings.


  1. Pat Cummins’ comeback:

 Pat Cummins
Pat Cummins celebrates the dismissal of KL Rahul

With Mitchell Starc ruled out of the series, the onus was on how competent his replacement would be. Pat Cummins played his second ever test more than five years after his first. He didn’t let the Australians feel Starc’s absence, bowling accurately on a pitch where much swing wasn’t on offer. There were doubts about his ability to last 5 days and bowl a large number of overs. He bowled 39 of them and finished with 4-106. Having picked up the prized scalps of Rahul, Kohli and Rahane, a fifer was much deserved but it wasn’t to be. His performance has sent out clear signals that if he’s able to maintain his fitness, Cummins might be the most potent weapon in Australia’s pace arsenal.


  1. Jadeja’s all-round performance:

Ravindra Jadeja celebrates a wicket in the Third Test.
Ravindra Jadeja celebrates a wicket in the Third Test.

Ravindra Jadeja once again looked the most menacing of the Indian bowlers. He picked up a five-wicket haul in Australia’s first innings, scored a crucial 54 off 55 balls to push India’s run rate towards the fag end of the innings. He bowled a workmanlike 44 overs in Australia’s second essay, giving away just 54 and picking up 4 wickets. Though he couldn’t inspire India to victory, he put in a lion-hearted performance and silenced critics who questioned his lack of runs. He deservingly claimed the sole number one spot on the ICC Test Rankings for Bowlers after the match, a position he had shared with Ashwin earlier.


  1. The Marsh-Handscomb partnership:

Handscomb celebrating his half-century with Shaun Marsh

With Australia reeling at 63-4 and Smith dismissed in the first session on day 5, India smelt victory. But Marsh and Handscomb put forth a dogged resistance for more than 4 hours to steer Australia to safety. Marsh crawled to 53 off 197 while Handscomb contributed 72 off 200. Handscomb showed great maturity for a newcomer and probably played his career defining innings. They defended solidly and didn’t allow India to whiff a wicket. By the time the stand was broken, it was too late. Their partnership will rank amongst the greatest Australian rescue acts for long.


  1. The Pujara and Saha show:

Pujara and Saha during their partnership
Pujara and Saha during their partnership

Cheteshwar Pujara has been in fine touch this season, and he justified the tag of India’s next Wall with one of the best knocks Indian cricket has ever seen. Displaying impregnable concentration, Pujara was at the crease for a mind-boggling 525 balls and 668 minutes scoring a patient 202. He padded balls pitched outside the leg stump for much off the 2 days, tiring the Australian spinners. Giving him company was Wriddhiman Saha, who scored a career-best 117. They put on 199 for the 7th wicket and virtually ruled out an Australian victory. Never once during their partnership did they look vulnerable. Pujara deservedly grabbed the Man of the Match for his marvellous innings.


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