After a loss in the first two games of the league stage, Australia went on to win eight consecutive games to reach the finals against India, which they won by six wickets, thanks to Travis Head's masterclass inning of 137 runs.
Australian wickets continued to tumble at a steady rate post lunch, with the visitors scoreboard reading 101/6 at tea as India stormed back with a concerted bowling effort that left Steve Smith and co reeling on in the second Test of the ongoing India vs Australia series.
Ishant Sharma, the final Indian wicket to fall in the morning session, took the first wicket post lunch, with Wriddhiman Saha taking the catch after the ball grazed the young opener’s gloves, taking a sharp bounce off a crack in the pitch.
While the first dismissal required a bit of luck, the second was a brilliant ball from Ravichandran Ashwin which deceived Warner, slipping on to his pads even as he attempted a sweep. The umpire’s finger went up immediately but Warner reluctantly went for a review after a brief discussion with captain Steve Smith. Replays proved that there was no bat involved and the original decision stood but it was mighty close as the ball just about clipped the stumps.
Smith (28) then struck a 23-run partnership with Shaun Marsh (9) but Umesh Yadav’s introduction into the attack brought immediate dividends for Virat Kohli. Yadav trapped Marsh LBW and after a short discussion, the Australians decided to conserve their final review.
Yadav got the prized scalp of the Smith with a ball that deserved a wicket and got one, with Smith missing the ball which hit his pads. Controversy erupted as Smith wanted to consult the dressing room but was stopped by the umpires from doing so. A furious Kohli was told to calm down by umpire Nigel Llong, as the Indian captain had protested vociferously as soon as he understood what Smith was attempting.
Peter Handscomb and Mitchell Marsh (13) looked well set and after an expensive Ishant Sharma over which leaked 13 runs, it seemed the Australians would canter to victory.
Ashwin came to India’s rescue yet again to break the dangerous partnership, with Karun Nair making his sole contribution of note with a well-taken catch at short leg to remove the dangerous Marsh. Ashwin wasn’t done, with his next scalp being of wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade for a duck after the Australian getting an inside edge which had Wriddhiman Saha flying at full stretch to ensure the dismissal.
At lunch, Peter Handscomb (19*) was unbeaten at the crease and while theoretically Australia require ‘only’ 87 runs, they won’t find much joy in the Bengaluru pitch and are up against a fired-up Indian side who are desperate to level the Border-Gavaskar series. For the next couple of batsmen are primarily bowlers and it may just be a bridge too far for the Australians.
Earlier in the day, India suffered a dramatic collapse brought about by the Australian pace-duo of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
Ajinkya Rahane (52) and Cheteshwar Pujara (92) initially gave the impression that India would be able to post a target of about 300 but after Starc dismissed Rahane with the new ball, the Indian wickets fell like chaff in the wind.
Smith’s decision to opt for the new ball was vindicated immediately by Starc, who got two wickets in two balls to stun the Indians. He got Rahane out via LBW on the third ball and on the very next removed Karun Nair (0) for a golden duck to change the complexion of the match in a span of two balls.
The Rahane dismissal was the turning point of the morning session, even more so with umpire Llong initially giving Rahane not out but after an Australian review, the decision was overturned much to delight of Steve Smith and co.
While Starc didn’t get his hat-trick, the psychological damage was done as Hazlewood picked up the wickets of Pujara, who was on the verge of a ton, and Ravichandran Ashwin (4) in the next over to deal a double whammy to the hosts.
Wriddhiman Saha (20*) proved to the be the sole source of resistance, keeping his head and playing some smart shots even as his teammates lost their heads and built a vital 16-run partnership with 11th man Ishant Sharma (6).
Sharma eventually fell to Steve O’Keefe, attempting to drive a loose ball which went straight to Shaun Marsh at short over to end the Indian innings at 274.
Hazlewood (6/67) was the pick of the visiting bowlers but had able support from fellow-pacer Starc (2/74) and spinner O’Keefe (2/36) in an action-packed opening session.