Steve Smith rode his luck in scoring 59 not out to extend Australia’s lead to 298 in its second innings against India on day two of the first cricket test on Friday.
Smith was dropped three times, and at stumps Australia was 143-4 after a stunning day in which 16 wickets fell.
India was bowled out for 105 in the first innings from 93-3, a record collapse triggered by spinner Steve O’Keefe’s career-best 6-35.
Virat Kohli was out for a duck, his first in a home test, and India conceded a 155-run lead.
The 7-wickets-for-12-runs collapse was a record for India in test cricket, worse than the 7-18 against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1990.
Beside Smith at the end of the day was Mitchell Marsh on 21.
Smith was dropped three times; at mid-on, short leg, and leg gully, en route to his 21st half-century off 93 balls. He put on 52 runs with Matt Renshaw (31), who was also dropped at slip.
Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-68 but the four dropped catches rounded off a miserable day for India.
“There’s always a first time (to chase a high target),” India coach Anil Kumble said.
“We would like to restrict them to as little as possible. But the dropped catches hurt us.”
India entered the four-test series as hot favorite, unbeaten in its last 20 tests on home soil and playing against an Australia lineup which had lost its last nine tests in Asia.
The pitch prepared in Pune, hosting its first ever test, appeared to be ideal for India’s three-pronged spin attack. But it was the Australians who made better use of it in the first innings.
The wickets tumbled on the dry, dusty pitch on the second day of the series, right from the first over when Mitchell Starc was dismissed for 61 to end Australia’s first innings at 260.
Before lunch, Starc (2-38) pegged back the host with a double strike. He dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara (6), caught behind, and two balls later had Kohli caught at first slip, his first duck since 2014 against England at Old Trafford, a gap of 45 innings.
Before Starc’s spell, Josh Hazlewood (1-11) dismissed Murali Vijay (10), caught behind as well.
“We were very excited to get Kohli out for a duck,” O’Keefe said. “During the lunch break, I worked on my bowling because I was not happy with my first spell. Taking six wickets hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will if it contributes to a win here.”
After lunch, Lokesh Rahul (64) took his fourth-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (13) to 50 runs. The opener scored his second test half-century off 84 balls, and then the slide began.
Rahul played an uncharacteristic shot and skied the ball to David Warner at long on off O’Keefe in the 33rd over. In the same over, Rahane was caught at forward short leg, and Wriddhiman Saha (0) was caught at slip. India slipped from 94-3 to 95-6 in the space of five deliveries.
Nathan Lyon (1-21) removed Ashwin (1) in the next over, the ball lobbing up off his boot to short leg.
Four wickets down in eight balls.
“We were bound to have one bad day after doing well for so long,” Kumble said. “We lost those four wickets in the space of 5-6 balls. That pushed us back and there were a couple soft dismissals as well. This pitch is certainly challenging and needs a lot more restraint. We lost our bearings after Rahul got out.”
O’Keefe’s previous best bowling figures were 3-53 against Pakistan in Sydney a month ago.
“I messed up my opportunity on the Sri Lankan tour, and I thought the Indian tour was out of reach,” O’Keefe said. “But I gave up on some Big Bash League cricket and worked on the red ball. The inputs from Monty Panesar and spin coach Sridharan Sriram have been very valuable, and instilled belief in what I am doing.”