Pune: An inexplicable batting collapse left India staring down the barrel as left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe’s career-best six-wicket haul gave Australia a firm grip on the first cricket Test, here on Friday.
The home team lost 7 wickets in the space of 11 runs to be bowled out for a pathetic 105, handing the momentum to the Australians, who had themselves folded for an underwhelming 260 here.
With a 155-run cushion on a square turner, Australia pressed home the advantage by finishing the day at 143/4 in their second innings, grabbing a lead of 298 runs on just the second day of the match.
India’s dramatic batting meltdown has left Steve Smith’s men well-placed to end the hosts’ fairytale 19-match winning streak.
If the shambolic batting was not enough, India ended up dropping several catches, three of Smith alone after R Ashwin had provided early breakthroughs in the Australian second innings.
At stumps, Smith was leading from front with an unbeaten 59-run knock and giving him company was Mitchell Marsh (21).
The day, however, belonged solely to O’Keefe, who single-handedly decimated the famed Indian line-up to snare 6 wickets for 35 runs in 13.1 overs.
Opener K L Rahul was the lone Indian batsman to pull off an innings of substance as he struck 64 off 97 balls, laced with 10 fours and a six.
It was a sensational post-lunch spell by Malaysia-born O’Keefe, who was playing only his fifth Test. His 6 wickets came off just 24 balls.
Ravichandran Ashwin took out openers David Warner (10) and Shaun Marsh (0) cheaply during Australia’s second essay but Smith steered the visitors to a position of strength.
For India Ashwin had figures of 3 for 68 while Jayant Yadav finished the day with 1 for 27.
With six wickets in hand Australia will now fancy their chances of putting the target beyond India tomorrow and clinching the match on a pitch that appears to be crumbling.
The story of the day was the abject capitulation of the Indian batting order as they lost seven wickets for 35 runs in 15.1 overs in the post lunch session to be all out 65 minutes into the second period of play.
The surrender is their worst after losing 7 for 18 at Christchurch against New Zealand in 1989-90.
Apart from Rahul, only Murali Vijay (10) and Ajinkya Rahane (13) reached double figures in the Indian first innings, that commenced early in the morning following the fall of Australia’s last wicket in the first over. However, it lasted a little under three hours and 40.1 Overs.
Resuming at the lunchtime score of 70 for three, India had added 24 runs when they lost wickets in a heap wreak