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Blood, sweat and insults - the battle of day two

It all began with a clang, David Warner losing his off stump to R Ashwin AFP

"India is done".

That is what my auto-rickshaw driver shouted out at some Indian flag-holding fans on their way to the ground. He had seen enough; they were finished, gone, broken. According to him, there was little reason even to play the second day in Bengaluru.

But even coming in, it was the most important day of the Test, and the series. If Australia put on a big total, it would be hard to see how India could win this match or even draw the series. Hell, they would be done. And even as good as Australia have been - they have dominated only three and a half days of cricket on this tour - a couple of bad sessions and all those Indian memories come back. The third innings of the second Test in India has devoured them before.

So India couldn't be done until the battle for day two had been won.

*****
Steven Smith is leaving the ball like it is an act of war, never has a leave had so much naked aggression. Kohli is yammering away, India's fielders lean into Smith, clapping fiercely, and Ishant Sharma stares long and hard after almost every delivery.

There is no doubt this is tough cricket, India are determined to stay in this series, Australia are desperate not to allow them. Smith's first run had almost brought a tussle, when he had pushed one down the pitch and Renshaw didn't move, meaning R Ashwin crashed into him, and then the umpire had to intervene.

It was tough, dirty, sweaty cricket. Every over seemed to have a half-chance, a low bouncing ball, or an act of aggression from someone. Smith would defend and pull a face, Ishant would mock that face. An lbw shout would almost end up in a run-out. Ishant would fall over after bowling, but even mid-tumble, continue his death stare at Renshaw. Smith is almost out lbw again, and the same ball Renshaw is almost run-out again. Ashwin is ripping the ball a body width and a half. Then the ball would run along the ground and Kohli would make sure the Australians remembered it.

At one stage almost every player on the ground and the umpires are in the middle of the pitch, talking, arguing locked in an endless battle of mental disintegration. There were 21 runs and a wicket in the first hour; 14 overs of cricket dripping in sweat after being punched in the gut.

Even as they have their drinks, the Indian team form a shape that allows them to continue to sledge the Australians, and the Australians sledge back. Smith and Kohli are engaged in an epic rap battle to the death.

All this while Ishant and Umesh Yadav are bowling the spells of their lives. They are using the natural deviation of the pitch, cracks and general lowness, plus the man-made reverse swing, to torture Smith into an innings of by-any-means-necessary survival. They just didn't bowl bad balls, they attacked the stumps, attacked his leaves, and attacked his ears. And they did it all morning.

Smith did survive, and while thriving was never really an option, with Jadeja coming on, he would have at least felt relief at seeing Ashwin off. But then, the Australian captain got an inside edge, and 20.1 overs only ended up only counting for 30 runs, so India is not yet done.

*****
In the final scene of the film Being There, Chance the gardener walks on water. The meaning of that, though widely debated, is in the honesty of his ignorance he is able to do something impossible. Essentially, Chance walks on water because he has never thought about it enough to know he can't.

Steve O'Keefe said of Matt Renshaw in the last Test that he didn't have the scar tissue of playing in Asia. For Renshaw, this is all marvellous; he looks as relaxed in the back of car smiling for the locals as he does out in the middle facing Umesh's testing reverse swing. In eight overs Umesh bowls five maidens, and goes for 14 runs, 12 of which are from the edge of Renshaw's bat. At one point, Umesh storms down the wicket to tell the batsman about it and Renshaw shrugs like a lovable doofus from a sit com.

Renshaw's main scoring shot is through slips, and it is, for most of the morning, his only scoring shot. Whether it zips through Kohli's hand, or through the gap, Renshaw beams like he is just happy to be there. He bats as if uninterested in the outside world, while others fight and scrap.

Shaun Marsh seems to either get grubbers that just hit him outside the line, or be rapped on the gloves by one of the few balls that truly rise. But there is one over when Marsh decides not just to defend. When Ashwin bowls one on a similar line and length to those he had been bowling all day - a foot outside leg stump, ripping across the left-hander - Marsh chooses not to stand up and play it, but get inside and sweep. A few balls later he is inside the ball again, he misses it, but it trickles down the leg side for byes. Then he handles a ball from Ashwin with no trouble at all, and takes nine off the over. The next over, he smashes a pull of Umesh. Australia score 13 runs off the last two overs. Before that they had scored 13 runs in the 13 overs.

You could almost feel day two breathe, for the first time.

It is right there, with the runs trickling for the first time all day, with Marsh set and surviving and Renshaw batting in a coma of childhood ignorance that Australia look like they are finally going to pull away. Renshaw is walking down the wicket and hitting Ashwin to wide long-on, Marsh is finding runs easily, and when Jadeja comes back on they seem to want to make sure Kohli doesn't feel like using him again.

CricViz says that Renshaw came down the pitch four times in his first 185 balls and then ten times in his last 11 balls, a period coinciding with the introduction of Jadeja. The third-last ball he comes down, he bonks a six over long off. The second-last time, he chips to midwicket for no run. The last time, he telegraphs his intention to Jadeja about four seconds before the ball is bowled. And again, India is still not done.

*****
Shaun Marsh might be forging a career for himself as a specialist batsman in Asia. He is not very good against seam but is brilliant against spin. He is not particularly good at home, he is worse than that in most places, but in Asia, he averages almost 60. There are many who don't think he is good at all, but he is tasty in Asia.

In the 57th over, Marsh survives a ball that keeps very low, tails in, thumps into his pad, but is just outside the line of off stump. The next ball, landing in a similar spot, hits a crack, jumps up, leaves him, and probably takes his thumb on the way through to Saha, who ends up being the only guy who believes it did.

Marsh squiggles across the crease to the seamers, he handles the spinning ball, and his whole innings seems like a cacophony of chances, but on the only real one he gave India don't review. And so for 197 balls, Marsh hears the howl of a half chance, always finds himself just outside the line or just missing the edge to collect a battle-scarred fifty.

Matthew Wade joins him, and while far from convincing, the two of them put on the fastest partnership of the day. They even bring up the lead, which, had felt a long way off for most of the day

Then Umesh fires another one at Marsh's pads, and this time, it looks pretty close, and is given. Marsh reviews, and he was outside the line. Next over, Ishant hits Marsh even plumber, there is no mistaking this one, Marsh is right in front, and it would had been out had Ishant not overstepped.

Twice India think they have him, twice he escapes.

Now all Marsh has to do is make it to stumps, if he does that, the chances of India being able to match the incredible intensity, and bowling performance of today, seems pretty unlikely. If Marsh makes it to stumps, maybe India is done.

If anyone is going to survive this day, it should be the specialist who has fought against the pitch with vicious worm balls, angry cracks, heaving reverse swing, and devious turn. It looks like he will fight his way through one of the greatest, and toughest, days of Test cricket you are ever going to see. That he will change his narrative and score the seminal Marsh hundred that parents tell their kids about.

Then he limps one to short midwicket. All that trench-warfare batting, the great escapes, the scratches and bruises, are tossed away to the fielder like a child throwing away a doll they don't want to play with anymore.

Australia make 197 runs, India take six wickets, both teams trade blood, sweat and insults, and according to the bookies, win predictors and cricket pundits, the chances of victory are roughly the same as they had been at the start of the day.

Australia fought well but didn't win the battle of day two, and India struggled but are not yet done.