Updated: September 22, 2017 11:00:30 am
Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon picked up 17 wickets in the opening Test against India in Pune. Seven wickets in the opening inning and then the complete side in the second with six wickets in both innings coming to O’Keefe. The left-arm orthodox bowler was considered to be the weakest link in Australia’s bowling armour. The opinion wasn’t just held in the sub-continent but Down Under too where Shane Warne was harshly critical of him before the New South Wales bowler turned things around in miraculous fashion.
At one juncture, O’Keefe was 0/30 in nine overs and finding it difficult in hot and dry conditions of Pune. But then the flurry of wickets began and Indian batting collapsed like nine pins. His carnage saw three wickets in an over and then four wickets in 25 balls at the expense of five runs. But prior to this, Warne, as a commentator said, “When you first start a session you want to set the tone and put pressure on the Indian batsmen and, without trying to be too harsh on Steve O’Keefe, this is the weakest of the Australian bowlers. You can understand Steve Smith trying to give him confidence, but there is a time and a place for Steve O’Keefe to get his confidence, right now is the time for Australia to ram home the advantage with Nathan Lyon I believe at that end.” And how wrong was he proven to be.
If that wasn’t enough, Warne questioned his selection on Day 1 too. “O’Keefe is the safe option because you know he’s not going to bowl much rubbish,” Warne said. “You don’t see him as a huge danger with big-turning deliveries. He bowls tight. In these conditions, guys like (Mitchell) Swepson and (Ashton) Agar could have been more of a danger option,” he added.
Lyon, despite O’Keefe’s heroics, is still believed to be Australia’s primary spin option. He has more experience under his belt and can cause more damage with his variations. He picked up five wickets in the match and despite the milestone went largely ignored.
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Having said all that, the pressure would still exist on the duo. They will once again have a difficult task ahead of them with Pune wicket proving to be a disaster for the home batsmen. While the pitch was expected to assist the home spinners in R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav, the dust bowl helped Australia to make a mark too. If that wasn’t enough, India batsmen played woeful shots to hamper their cause. The odds of it repeating are grim. India are strong players of spin and it holds true even more when playing at home. However, the pressure that existed before the Pune Test would be much lesser than that for the Bangalore Test.
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