Steve O'Keefe knew this Test was his big chance. He had played four Tests before, but never more than one in a series. One in Dubai, one in Sydney, one in Pallekele, another in Sydney. So when he saw a pitch that threatened to be a raging turner, he knew the pressure was on to perform. And, having been given the new ball to share with Mitchell Starc, O'Keefe went to lunch on day two with 0 for 23 from seven overs.
He was disappointed with how he had bowled. He was not leaking runs, but nor was he threatening much either. So, O'Keefe spent some of his lunch break training with Sridharan Sriram, the former India allrounder serving as Australia's spin consultant on this trip. And when O'Keefe was handed the ball for his first spell upon the resumption, he took three wickets in his first over to turn the match in Australia's favour, and finished with 6 for 35 from 13.1 overs.
"When I first started to bowl, my first six overs, I went probably back to my comfort zone, which is what I bowl in Australia," O'Keefe said after play. "You probably won't see it on camera, but I know how it feels. I was probably just going a bit over the top and whenever I tried to bowl quick it was too full, and it was ordinary bowling the first six overs.
"I'd been working in the nets on some other variations, just changing the seam angle and arm angle and you probably don't notice it, but for me it made all the difference. Sree was like 'let's go out and bowl it so you feel comfortable with it'.
"It's amazing how things can quickly change over here. I probably didn't bowl very well at all in my first six overs. And then it all just happened really quickly. I guess that's the sort of wicket it is. We played and missed at a lot of balls, and fortunately for us they nicked them and we caught them. It was a good day to be a part of and well finished off by the batters."
O'Keefe's success should guarantee that, unless he suffers an injury like he did during last year's Sri Lanka tour, he will play multiple Tests in a series for the first time in his career. At 32, he knew this tour was make or break for his international career, after the disappointment of being forced home from Sri Lanka, which had been followed by a drunken incident at a Sydney hotel that led to a fine from Cricket Australia.
"Going to Sri Lanka, I thought that was my big opportunity, and I sort of messed that one up," he said. "To be honest, I always thought an India tour was there but that it was almost unreachable. To be given this opportunity - I've tried to make the most of it and I've prepared for it back home by giving away some of the Big Bash cricket to prepare solely for red-ball cricket … It means a lot to do well, but we're day two in a four-Test series, so we're not getting ahead of ourselves."
O'Keefe was well backed up by the fielders on day two in Pune - Peter Handscomb's take at second slip to get rid of Ajinkya Rahane was particularly special, but also by his captain. Steven Smith trusted O'Keefe to take the new ball and then went to him again soon after lunch, despite his struggle for impact in his opening spell.
"I think the important thing is I've been well backed up by Steve Smith, who I think is a brilliant captain," O'Keefe said. "When you play under a captain who shows a lot of belief in you, it's amazing what can happen."
O'Keefe's final analysis of 6 for 35 was the third best by a visiting left-arm spinner in India, behind Hedley Verity's 7 for 49 in 1934 and Michael Clarke's 6 for 9 in 2004, and they were also the second-best figures of O'Keefe's first-class career. And while he was still coming to terms with his triumphant performance shortly after play on day two, he knew it would count for little if Australia let India off the hook in the second innings.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. "I think it will if that contributes to a win. Right now we'll enjoy it, we had a good day, but that's all it is. It's just a good day's cricket. We know this Indian team, how well they can bat, and even in spinning conditions they're exceptional players. They're all match-winners, all their top seven batters, you'd even argue the top eight. We've got our work cut out for us. We're 300 ahead - let's get more and let's create 10 chances tomorrow and hold on to them."