Steve O'Keefe spins Australia to 333-run victory against India in Pune Test

By @saihoops on
Steve O'Keefe, Pune Test
Cricket - India v Australia - First Test cricket match - Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune, India - 25/02/17. Australia's Steve O'Keefe celebrates with team mates the wicket of India's Wriddhiman Saha. Reuters / Danish Siddiqui

Left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe finished with a sensational haul of 12/70 as Australia completed a crushing 333-run victory over India in the first of four Test matches Sunday. O'Keefe snagged 6/35 in each innings, the all-time greatest performance by a visiting spinner on Indian soil, as the hosts capitulated for 105 and 107 in response to Australia's 260 and 285 at the MCA Stadium in Pune, Maharashtra. 

After bowling out India to 105 in the first innings, the Aussies set a daunting target of 444, riding on captain Steven Smith's batting masterclass on a turning pitch. Thereafter, the Indians were bowled out in just 33.35 overs as the Aussies claimed a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series. 

Having lost nine consecutive Tests matches in Asia, the Australians entered the series as the underdogs and were expected to capitulate against India's spin duo of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who combined for a tally of 53 wickets during the home team's comfortable 4-0 series win in 2013. Sunday's shocking defeat also puts a stop to India's undefeated streak of 19 Test matches which dates back to the Nagpur Test against England in late 2012. 

Skipper Steven Smith showers praise on Steve O'Keefe

After the victory, skipper Steven Smith said it was particularly satisfying to beat India in a surface that was tailor-made for the hosts. "We haven't won a game (a Test) here (in India) for 4502 days. It was one of the most difficult wickets you'll bat on. This was, from day one, the driest surface and most inconsistent sort of spinning surface that I've ever seen. It'll be interesting to see what they'll come up with (for the second Test in Bangalore)," a jubilant Smith told ABC radio after the win.

As noted early, O'Keefe's match haul of 12/70 is the greatest-ever performance by a visiting spinner on Indians soil. Amazingly, the duo of Ashwin and Jadeja managed "only" 12 wickets between them. Smith lavished praise on the unheralded spinner, who entered the game as a veteran of 4 Test matches. "A lot of our right-handers -- and left-handers -- got beaten on the outside edge of the bat. Those guys (Ashwin and Jadeja) are big spinners of the ball, and generally it's the one that goes straight that gets you in a bit of trouble. It's great the guys are learning and actually playing for that straight one and allowing the other one to spin past the bat. That has been a big learning curve for us as a team for a while."

"I love SOK's (O'Keefe) willingness to learn, and try different things and adapt to different conditions. He's able to bowl differently to what he does back home. Back home he gets over the top of the ball a lot more, and here he comes around it and changes his seam positions and gets the most natural variation out of the wicket - very similar to Jadeja," added Smith, via ESPNCricinfo. The second Test gets underway at Bangalore on Mar. 4.