PERTH: Darren Lehmann, the Australian coach, has predicted India to strike back in the next three Tests after his side managed to stun the hosts in the first Test in Pune by 333 runs. It was India’s first loss in a home Test since December 2012. “I think the way we played, we deserved to win by that much at the end,” Lehmann said on Sunday (February 26). “But they’re a quality side and the challenge for our group is to back that performance up in Bangalore. We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. India are a quality side, especially at home I think that’s the first Test they’ve lost in 20 Test matches so they’ll come back pretty hard.” Contrary to the predictions made by most experts, Australia’s spin duo of Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon outshone their Indian counterparts with the former picking up a 12-wicket haul. Lehmann found similarities between O’Keefe’s performance and Mitchell Johnson’s menacing spell in Adelaide against England in the 2013-14 Ashes series. Johnson ripped through England’s batting lineup in that Test to end up with a seven-wicket haul that helped Australia win by 218 runs. “An exceptional spell—I haven’t seen that since Mitchell Johnson in the Ashes with England in Adelaide when he tore them apart,” Lehmann observed. “We took 7 for 11 and that obviously turned the game. Twelve-for, 6 for 35 in both innings is pretty special. You always hope don’t you, as a player.”
The Australian coach was pleased with the efforts of Lyon as well, even though it was O’Keefe who chipped away with the wickets. Lyon was under pressure from several quarters after failing to make an impact in Sri Lanka last year. “I actually thought Nathan Lyon bowled just as well, to be perfectly honest,” he said. “Nathan’s been under pressure from a lot of sources throughout the subcontinent, myself included. I thought he was outstanding in this game. He was brilliant, so both spinners did the job, but Steven was exceptional getting the rewards.” Apart from the spinners, Lehmann reserved praise for Steve Smith, who crafted a hard-fought century in the second innings that took the game away from India. Lehmann felt that it was Smith’s best knock in these conditions. “I think it’s probably his best, especially in those conditions,” Lehmann said. “I haven’t seen him so determined. He’s always determined – he’s captain of our country and plays really well obviously, but he knows conditions on that wicket. To make a hundred was very special, so that’d have to be in his top few for sure.” The 47-year-old also lauded opener Matt Renshaw’s efforts with the bat as ‘pretty special’.
O’Keefe is like a reliable Korean car, says Panesar
In motoring parlance, Australia spinner Steve O’Keefe is a more reliable Korean car than prestige vehicle but his “happy” mental state makes him a great addition to the team garage, according to former England bowler Monty Panesar. “When I first saw him, he asked me: ‘what do you think of my spin bowling?’ I said to him, ‘you’re like a Hyundai i30”, Luton-born Panesar said in an interview. “’You’re very much unassuming. You’re reliable. You get from A to B and you get the job done’. “I remember telling (the team management) before they left for India, I said ‘I feel like O’Keefe will have the most impact’. “That was my judgement and sometimes these things happen in cricket.”