The third Test between India and Australia in Ranchi was always going to be a tale of the two captains – Steven Smith and Virat Kohli. In the second Test at Bangalore, India’s Kohli came up trumps, not necessarily with the bat, but with his captaincy and leadership skills.
What made matters worse for Smith was his ‘brain-fade’ when he consulted his dressing room before making a DRS call, a move that amounts to cheating and is clearly against the spirit of the game.
Cut to day one at the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi.
Having won the toss, Smith opted to bat and led by example, playing an astute knock to take his side to a commanding position. On the same day, Kohli injured his shoulder while fielding in the deep.
The Indian skipper’s injury would make headlines the entire day with conflicting reports emerging of his predicament. For the next day and a half, cricket had taken a backseat and Virat Kohli’s health had taken center stage.
By the end of the second day, questions were still left unanswered over whether Kohli would play any part in the match whatsoever. The good news for the Indian team was that he would be allowed to bat at any position he chose despite not being on the field on play for a large spell of time due to an exception in the rule book.
Cut to lunch on day three at the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi.
After having scored a well-constructed fifty in his 50th Test, Murali Vijay departed on the stroke of lunch. All eyes were on the Indian dressing room and whether the skipper, their leader, Virat Kohli, would walk out to bat at number 4. And sure enough, when play resumed, he was taking strike at number 4.
He had struggled so far in the series and with Steven Smith laying down a marker earlier in the Test, he would have been eager to respond.
In the 81st over, a well-set Cheteshwar Pujara played a neat stroke towards deep midwicket which look destined for the boundary. Glenn Maxwell put in a heroic effort to prevent the boundary, having to put in the dive in the same place that Kohli had earlier injured his shoulder.
He made sure the Indian captain noticed he was fine by mocking him instantly.
On the very next ball, Maxwell’s jibe had had an impact. After barely troubling the scores, Kohli went hard at a good length delivery outside off stump from Pat Cummins, it took the outside edge and flew to who else but his opposing number, Smith, who took a great catch. The adrenaline was pumping for the Australian skipper, and he let his frustration out.
First, by celebrating before completing an incredibly hard catch, followed by his gestures to send off Virat Kohli.
The Australians made sure Virat Kohli heard their happiness about his dismissal –
The skipper himself got involved, as he appeared to call Virat Kohli a cry-baby –
Kohli immediately took notice and made sure he informed the umpire about the same –
For now, Steven Smith definitely has the upper hand over Virat Kohli. Both, in terms of numbers in this series as well as the mental edge. Things will heat up as the Test proceeds to the final two days of the Test match.
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy hinges on this match. If Australia win the third Test, irrespective of the result in the final Test, they will retain it for now.