OzBall gone wrong: How Australia’s sweeping frenzy led to an almighty collapse in Delhi
@ovshake42 3 minute read
Australia imploded in spectacular fashion on the third morning of the second Test match, in Delhi, losing nine wickets in 110 balls.
No one should blame you for waking up late on a Sunday morning in February and reaching out for the remote control just before lunch, half-expecting Australia to be three wickets down or perhaps four, and the Indian spinners clawing back into the match.
Instead, you see Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara bat together, for not only have Australia bowled themselves out, but they have done that with enough time to get KL Rahul before lunch.
In the interim period, they lost their last nine wickets for 48 runs in 110 balls – the shortest span in which a side lost their last nine wickets against India in Test matches where ball-by-ball data is available.
The “bowled themselves out” bit is not an exaggeration. While Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin were spectacular on the third morning, the Australians did their bit, in an inexplicable assortment of seemingly premeditated sweeps and reverse sweeps.
It had begun on the second evening, when Rahul, on the boundary, did not pick up Usman Khawaja’s sweep and it raced to the fence. Khawaja swept again, and this time Shreyas Iyer showed amazing reflexes to take the catch at backward short-leg.
The dismissal was forgotten, for Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne took Australia to 61-1 in 12 overs by stumps. Labuschagne swept Jadeja for two fours, but not much was made of that.
After all, Australia were 62 ahead, and aggressive batting had got them there. They had, until that point, scored at 3.38 an over in the Test match, not quite Bazball but an exhibition of confident footwork and aggressive strokes that had helped them nose ahead.
Not unexpectedly, Ashwin struck early, luring Head forward and inducing an edge that KS Bharat held on to. An early wicket, but that was fine, for Steve Smith now walked out to join Labuschagne.
Labuschagne, meanwhile, resorted to sweeping Ashwin. First, a deft paddle-sweep, then, having spotted a vacant space on the off-side, a reverse sweep, both for fours. He tried again, and missed this time, but was given not out, and India burnt a review. Smith, meanwhile, lofted Jadeja for four.
Six overs into the morning, and Australia have got 23. The only wicket they had lost to was against a decent ball.
Labuschagne now left Smith to face one ball of Ashwin’s over. Smith, having not swept since morning, now went for it – and missed. The review did not save him.
Labuschagne got a run off the last ball of Jadeja’s over. Then, when he ran a single off Ashwin, Matt Renshaw tried to sweep the first ball he faced in the innings (and edged), perhaps making Australia’s intentions obvious.
Renshaw then reverse swept Jadeja – a dangerous shot on a pitch with low bounce, as both Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara would say after the Test match – and got away with a top edge that somehow landed safely. Jadeja responded by cleaning up Labuschagne with a ball that kept low.
Renshaw had little clue against the first four balls he faced off Ashwin. Perhaps the two edges had prevented him from attempting the sweep, but after being beaten thrice, he tried to step out – and edged. He defended the next ball.
Somehow Renshaw was still around, but now he decided to fall back onto the sweep again. He had edged twice playing the shot, but this time he did not, and Australia slipped to 95-5.
Jadeja, presumably unhappy with Ashwin taking a 3-2 lead, promptly had Peter Handscomb caught at slip with the next ball. Pat Cummins walked out, and for some inexplicable reason, went for a wild sweep off the first ball he faced – to one that neither turned nor bounced and could have been played much better with a vertical bat.
Jadeja hit timber. He now led Ashwin 4-3, and India had taken four for nought in 11 balls.
Alex Carey was, of course, expected to sweep, but perhaps not Nathan Lyon. Between them, they tried to either sweep or reverse sweep five of the six balls in Ashwin’s next over – one of them off a full-toss – but did not get out.
Carey predictably fell while attempting the reverse sweep. Unfortunately, he attempted the shot against a ball that was too short – so short, in fact, that it hit the top of leg-stump.
Lyon followed soon – to a wild slog – but it was No.11 Matt Kuhnemann’s dismissal that summed up the Australian capitulation more than anything else.
Let alone a fifty, Kuhnemann does not have a 25 in first-class cricket. This was his debut. He had batted at No.11 in his only match on Asian soil, against Sri Lanka A last June. Here, Mohammed Shami had knocked his stump out in the first innings. In the second, he had inside edged the first ball he faced.
He had no batting credentials to boast of – and yet, he tried to reverse sweep Jadeja off the second ball he faced, to a ball on the stumps. Well, at least he put bat on ball before it hit the stumps.