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Analysis

Jadeja ends frustrating day with rewards for perseverance

He took a wicket off a no-ball once again and burned two reviews, before finding his groove to help India salvage something from the first day in Indore

Ravindra Jadeja on day one in Indore: a bowled off a no-ball, two unsuccessful reviews, four wickets for persistence  •  BCCI

Ravindra Jadeja on day one in Indore: a bowled off a no-ball, two unsuccessful reviews, four wickets for persistence  •  BCCI

Two balls, one after the other, behaving in entirely different ways: a defining feature of day one of the third Border-Gavaskar Test match in Indore, where a series of pitches with variable pace, turn and bounce reached a new level of variable.
Ravindra Jadeja had been the recipient of two such balls earlier in the day, from Nathan Lyon. He'd successfully reviewed an lbw decision off the first ball, which had skidded into his back pad before he could bring his bat down, but he'd fallen to the next ball, which stopped on him and turned, causing him to drag an attempted square cut far straighter than intended. Aiming to slap the ball through point, he ended up caught by short extra-cover moving to his left.
Now, two sessions later, in the 39th over of Australia's innings, Jadeja bowled two such balls to Usman Khawaja. The first kept low, and the second spat up towards the batter's gloves. Khawaja kept out the first, jabbing down hurriedly, and survived the next one, fending it between short leg and leg gully.
At that point, Jadeja had figures of 16.3-4-45-2. Excellent, you'd think, until you viewed them in the context of the match situation. India had been bowled out for 109 in a mere 33.2 overs. Australia were 115 for 2 in 38.3 overs.
It could have been different, but it wasn't, and Jadeja had been in the thick of all the coulda woulda shoulda. He'd got Marnus Labuschagne to play on in just his second over, and Australia could have been 14 for 2, but he'd overstepped. It was the third time in the series that he'd had a wicket struck off for that reason.
Not too long after that, Jadeja had played a part in burning two reviews against Khawaja. Ball-tracking suggested that both balls would have gone on to miss leg stump comfortably, and the first one also happened to pitch and strike Khawaja's front pad outside leg stump.
In the over after the second review, R Ashwin didn't get to review a not-out decision when he struck Labuschagne's front pad. The ball was a near-replay of Labuschagne's dismissal in the first innings of the Delhi Test, and Ashwin had got his man only after taking recourse to the DRS. In Indore, however, India were perhaps too wary of asking for a review soon after they'd used up two in quick succession.
Australia could have been - couldabeen, even - 38 for 2, but they weren't.
And so it went, as Khawaja and Labuschagne built the day's biggest partnership, by far. They put on 96 runs, and occupied the crease for 198 balls. The entire India innings had lasted 200 balls.
It wasn't that India didn't threaten to break this stand at various points. But it was the kind of day when nothing seemed to go their way. When Jadeja finally broke the second-wicket stand, the shooter he bowled Labuschagne with was the 49th ball of Australia's innings to draw a false shot, according to ESPNcricinfo's control data.
Australia lost two wickets over those 49 not-in-control balls. India lost all 10 over the course of 51 not-in-control balls.
Luck, it would seem, was on Australia's side but they also had other things going for them. Pitches with sharp turn reduce a spinner's margin for error, and both Ashwin and Jadeja took a while finding their groove. They beat the bat regularly from a traditional good length, and in the effort to bowl fuller and find the edge, they offered up more scoring opportunities than they otherwise might have. India couldn't afford to attack too much given their low total, and their in-out fields were both a necessity and a source of frustration as Khawaja and Labuschagne picked up a steady stream of singles to deep fielders.
It was that kind of day, the kind that's usually reserved for visiting teams in India. But like they did in Pune six years ago, turning conditions can occasionally backfire on India. They know it, but they feel they play their best cricket on such pitches. Vikram Rathour, India's batting coach, said as much in his end-of-day press conference.
"Of course you can collapse as a batting unit at times, but the thing is that we do prefer to play on turning tracks because I think that is our strength, that is where we are really good as a team," he said. "How much that wicket turned, to be fair, the earlier two wickets, I don't think they were bad wickets by any standard, they were wickets which turned, which we prefer."
Pitch preparation isn't an exact science, and the same intentions applied to three different strips of turf can produce three very different pitches. Rathour said India were taken by surprise by just how much the ball turned on this Indore pitch, but he sympathised with the groundstaff for having had to prepare it at short notice.
"Today it was drier than we expected and we saw that it did more," Rathour said. "First day of a Test match, it did a lot more than we expected. But to be fair on the curators also, I think they hardly got time to prepare this wicket. They had a Ranji Trophy season here, and then it was pretty late that it was decided that the game was shifted from Dharamshala to this venue, so I don't think they got enough time to really prepare the wicket."
On this pitch, batting seemed to become slightly easier as the day wore on. It may have been down to early moisture drying out over time, or to Australia batting for longer against an older ball, or to a pair of set batters spending a significant length of time at the crease. Whatever it was, it reflected in the control numbers.
Australia's batters achieved a control percentage of nearly 79 over their innings. India's figure was just above 74%.
But the uncertainty India's bowlers created through Australia's innings began reaping rewards after tea. The occasional frustrations of Jadeja had defined India's bowling performance until then; now it became all about the one quality, above all, that's made him a great cricketer - his persistence.
Sometimes it can feel like a mildly negative quality; it took him until his 18th over to try bowling from over the wicket to the left-hander, by which time Khawaja was on 60. The change of angle caused immediate uncertainty out of the footmarks outside off stump, and brought out Khawaja's sweep - he missed one, and top-edged his next attempt to the fielder at deep square leg.
But it's also a sign of Jadeja's trust in his methods that it took him so long to try the new angle. The methods, the trust, and the skill underlying it all brought him, soon after, the wickets of Labuschagne and Steven Smith, and Australia's false-shots-to-dismissal ratio reverted to the mean. By stumps, they'd lost four wickets while playing 69 false shots, and while they were still ahead of the game at 156 for 4, they were not nearly as far ahead as they may have hoped when they'd bowled India out so quickly.
Jadeja had been the meme at the centre of it all: If you don't love me at my *insert overstepping visual*, you don't deserve me at my *insert wicket celebration*.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo