Published On: Sat, Feb 25th, 2017

Smith, O’Keefe power Australia to victory

Pune: Inspired by an all-round effort, Australia ended India’s 19-match record unbeaten streak after thrashing the hosts by a mammoth 333 runs within three days of the opening Test at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Saturday.

O’Keefe returned figures of 6/35 — the best of his nascent four-Test career

Playing his first Test in the sub-continent, left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe turned out to be the dark horse, taking six wickets in each innings to break the backbone of the Indian batting as Virat Kohli tasted his first defeat as skipper of all three formats.

Chasing a mammoth 441, the home side once again succumbed to the visiting spin duo of O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon to be dismissed for a paltry 107 in their second essay.

The visitors have now taken a 1-0 lead in the four-match Test series.

O’Keefe returned figures of 6/35 — the best of his nascent four-Test career while Lyon took 4/53.

O’Keefe ended up with match figures of 12/70. Earlier, in the first innings, the 32-year-old left-armer had also registered figures of 6/35 to skittle the hosts out for 105 in response to Australia’s first innings score of 260.

O’Keefe’s figures are the second best by a visiting bowler in India, behind Ian Botham’s 13/108 in Bombay 37 years ago. It is the fifth-cheapest 12-wicket haul in Test cricket.

Before coming into this match, the left-hander had 14 wickets from four Test matches after making his debut against Pakistan in Dubai two years ago.

The visitors thus put an end to India’s 20-Test unbeaten streak. The last time India lost a Test match at home was in in 2012 when England registered a seven-wicket victory in Kolkata. Since then, they have won 17 Test matches and drawn three.

Saturday’s victory also saw Australia avenge their 171-run loss to India in the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy of 2001 which ended their 16-match world record winning streak.

The men from Down Under had lost nine consecutive Test matches in Asia before this match. Four of those were in India during their last vist in 2013, two against Pakistan in the UNited Arab Emirates (UAE) and three in Sri Lanka.

This is also India’s second biggest in a home Test and fourth largest overall. Their biggest loss have also been against Australia, by 342 runs in Nagpur in 2004-05.

Coming in to bat in the post-lunch session after dismissing Australia for 285, the hosts ran into trouble early in their second essay with Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul and Kohli returning to the pavilion even before the Indian total had reached the 50-run mark.

Cheteshwar Pujara — the highest scorer in India’s second innings with 31 — and Ajinkya Rahane could add only 30 runs between them before the latter mistimed a delivery from O’Keefe only to find Lyon at cover.

Ravichandran Ashwin, who has been in excellent batting form in recent times, lasted all of eight deliveries before being trapped leg before by O’Keefe. The umpire had initially adjudged Ashwin as not out, but a review by the visitors prompted a change in the decision.

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