Australia’s day two plan was simple: bat all day and wear down an Indian bowling attack trundling through an 11th Test match of the season. But the execution of this plan was made difficult by an untrustworthy Bengaluru pitch, and a snarling, desperate home side, intent on getting in the Australians’ faces, and in turn, their wickets.
What played out was riveting, low-scoring stuff. Australia’s 197 for 6 was their lowest score in a full day’s play since Nagpur in 2008, when a Mexican stand-off on a flatter pitch – MS Dhoni employed 8-1 off-side fields which the tourists could not shake – reaped a mere 166 runs. But, where Simon Katich in particular met that grind with mounting frustration, Matt Renshaw responded to Virat Kohli’s niggle with a broad grin, and a deliberate one at that.
“I don’t try and say too much out there,” Renshaw said after his 60 from 196 balls took him past 400 balls faced for the series. “I just try to smile, because in my past experience, smiling seems to unnerve the bowlers a bit more than talking back. They seemed to get quite frustrated.
“I was just trying to enjoy it and laugh at what he was saying because some of it was quite funny. He [Kohli] was just reminding me to run off and go to the toilet again, which happened in Pune, so it was quite funny. We all took it pretty well and we know that they’re trying to get under our skin because we’ve got a one-nil lead in the series.”
Renshaw had a ringside seat as Kohli tried pointedly to distract his opposite number Steven Smith. “There was a bit of talk, but I think that’s because they’re trying to unnerve each other and try and get under the skin. But it was all good fun and good contest out there,” he said. “It was really loud out there when he was doing that. It’s something I’m probably not used to, but it’s about embracing different conditions and challenges that we get.”
Incredibly, the surface at the Chinnaswamy Stadium may actually be more difficult than the one prepared for the first Test in Pune. Spin, bounce and pace are all variable, requiring Renshaw and the rest of the Australians to adapt further still to every ball spun or seamed down towards them.
“I think Pune we knew was going to spin. This one, we don’t really know which one is going to spin. That’s the challenge,” Renshaw said. “Some are turning quite a lot, some are not turning as much, some are going on with the angle. It’s trying to play for the one that doesn’t turn and then if it goes past the bat, it goes past the bat. But it’s probably a bit harder against the quicks because it’s not bouncing as much or some are going up.
“I think every run is vital. We sort of felt like we were just about to get on top of the game when I got out, so it’s quite frustrating from that point of view. If we’d got a few more runs, me and Shaun Marsh, we could have had complete control of the game.”
The mental challenge presented was underlined by how successive Australian batsmen fought their way into a position where they may have been able to assert themselves, only to drop their guard. Smith did so, then Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, and finally Shaun Marsh. “It probably wasn’t a great move from me, but Jadeja is a really smart bowler and he probably saw me coming, so he fired it down there,” Renshaw said. “I tried to get a bit of pad on but just missed it.”
However, the visitors were still able to ward off the threat of a batting collapse, steadily adding runs across the day to leave Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc with a chance to build a significant lead on day three. In doing so, it appeared that all had taken something from watching Renshaw, who said his own determination to stay at the crease had been derived from a creative interpretation of junior cricket rules devised to give everyone a go.
“I wasn’t the biggest bloke. Instead of retiring us on balls, they retired us on runs, so once we got to 50, we had to retire and someone else would come in,” Renshaw said. “I didn’t really want anyone else to bat, I just wanted to bat for myself. I tried to get to 50 as slow as possible. I don’t think it was my fault, it was my size.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.