Rohit's zen, Pujara sweeps, Murphy's five and Ravi's improvement
Day two from Nagpur
Rohit vs the rest
Rohit Sharma is very good.
He played an exceptional innings in this Test match. Possibly his best Test century at home. On par with the 161, he made against England at Chepauk in 2021. In fact, like that wicket, he scored in a way that kind of made everyone else look stupid. This is still early in this game, and Jadeja might go on. But either way, again the wicket required something that apparently could only be worked out with Rohit.
Another thing worth noting is just how good he is at making sure he scores off whoever gives him opportunities. Even with some poor balls from Cummins, other players would possibly have played him out. Rohit was happy enough to score from him. Whereas Boland, a fast-medium bowler no one before yesterday thought was going to be an effective bowler in Asia was given so much respect.
I wonder if younger Rohit would have done this. Or if he would have wanted to dominate all bowlers. There is a zen-ness to his batting now. Like mid-career Inzi, where there is little left to actually prove. It’s just about making runs. The ego is no longer part of what he does. And he now reacts to the game, rather than putting a stamp on it.
Ravindra Jadeja as a Test batter at home
India played West Indies at Rajkot in 2018. This is a landmark game because Ravindra Jadeja brought up his maiden Test century. Although he played several useful cameos before this Test match, his home record has improved significantly.
Former India head coach Ravi Shastri seems to think the point of difference is the new-found self-belief from Jadeja. It was never a question of abilities - he had scored 3 first-class triple hundreds before turning 24.
Nathan Lyon’s ball to Suryakumar Yadav
The commentators spent a lot of time talking early in the day about how offspinners should bowl over the wicket. They even showed Lyon’s average delivery outside off stump at home and compared it to this match. Their thought was that by bowling around the wicket to right-handers he was taking away his chance at all kinds of dismissals. I have heard former players say this a lot, and the two dismissals they were talking about were caught in the slips and bowled.
Lyon had an edge go past slip in this period, and would eventually bowl Suryakumar Yadav.
Types of off-spin
This is a very basic idea of the three main attacks of an offspinner. I have grouped them by western and Asian, it's not quite as clear as this. But mostly it works this way because in Asia you want more balls to hit the stumps, and the LBW/Bowled chances go up. In the West, it varies, but many offspinners bowl the ball wider, either because of drift or because the extra bounce aids them in catches behind the wicket.
Ricky Ponting was often angry that his off-spinners wouldn’t use the Indian method when there. Around the wicket seems to vary more based on the bowler. Some before that middle and leg line, while others look more of the off-stump. But it makes more sense for a bowler from Asia to use this method as it does bring the stumps and LBW into play far more. You can pitch the ball in line and straighten it, giving the umpire a very good view.
In general, it is much better to bowl over the wicket for an offspinner. But in Asia, and India specifically, the record is so much better when you come around. It is the only place in world cricket where this is true. Australia took 6 wickets with off-spin. All of them were around the wicket.
Cheteshwar Pujara and the sweep shot
Cheteshwar Pujara does not sweep. I don’t know who cleans up around his house, but even if he does that, he is using a vacuum. He hasn’t played a slog sweep in Tests in the last five years, has one reverse, six paddles and eight conventional sweeps.
This is not a shot he likes or needs. But he played one today and was dismissed.
There is a lot of talk about intent, but really, what Pujara saw was a terrible ball. It is a mile down the leg, it’s probably a slightly in-between length. If you were a sweeper, this might be ok, but this is more of a paddle around the corner to a long hop and was probably a late decision.
Essentially he just saw a really poor ball and went after it. In Tests, he attacks spinners far more at home than anywhere else. Many will say he went a bit hard here, but I just think he saw a gimme and went for it.
However, it is worth mentioning that he is not playing spin well at home anymore. Outside of a few balls of spin in the West Indies, his lowest average is at home. And if you look at his last five years compared to his career before it is a massive drop. India are clearly playing more bowler-friendly wickets at home at that time. But this would appear to be something else. Outside of peak Rahul Dravid, I would have thought Pujara was as good against spin as anyone. That is clearly not the case now.
I don’t think today proves it, but at his peak, I wonder if he ever would have played a sweep shot to a ball so early in his innings.
Australian spinners and Test debuts in Asia
Todd Murphy has had a very good debut. He has changed his pace like a senior bowler, moving between over and around. But the other thing I like is he is bowling for Asia, and therefore going faster and around the wicket more than he would traditionally.
We have seen Australian spinners struggle to do that after years of experience. The fact he has done it already, and so well, is a really promising sign.
But there are some things that need to be mentioned here, as good as he was, there have been two other Aussie spinners take surprise five-wicket hauls on their Asian debut. One was Nathan Lyon, who took Kumar Sangakkara with a spiteful ball, and then cleaned up the tail. His career worked out pretty well.
On the other side of it, at this very Nagpur Jason Krejza took eight wickets, and 12 in the match, against a stacked Indian side who decided he was six or out. Krejza finished his career in his next Test when South Africa chased a record score against him in the fourth innings.
That’s quite a range. Having seen all three debuts, I would say Murphy bowled the best. But he has a long way to go.
Though there was an element of arse in his five wickets, even if he certainly earned it. As an offspinner can you do much better than getting Pujara and Kohli caught down the legside with balls that would have been one day wides and were turning further away?
New new ball runs
Let us talk about the very new ball. So this is what happened when Australia took the second new ball. This was after Smith had dropped Rohit as well. If you think back to Australia's first innings they lost two very new ball wickets as well.
Why this matters is when Australia took the ball first, Cummins really struggled, and Rohit Sharma punished him.
Twice. In fact, the three most expensive overs of the first 95 were in the first five. At the time it felt like a missed opportunity. Now it might be worse. Had Cummins bowled as well as Boland (which is something you could say all the way through the innings) early on then perhaps Australia breakthrough, and we can see that most of the Indian batters also struggled to make runs.
And if Cummins was bad, Rohit was very good. Having a boundary hitter at the top means you can’t make mistakes bowling to them.