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Kohli's "sweetest victory" a bitter pill for Aussies

Cricket

Australia have suffered a 75-run defeat to India in Bangalore, with the four-Test series now level after an absorbing match full of what-ifs, send-offs, momentum shifts, run-ins and Decision Review System drama.

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Steve Smith’s side were rolled for 112 early in the final session on day four of the second Test, having been set a target of 188 after an inspired fightback with the ball from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Australia crumbled in a collapse of 6-11 last night, Australian time, unable to survive a pitch playing plenty of tricks and a chaotic series of events.

The visitors had complete control of the contest after Nathan Lyon’s record-breaking haul of 8-50 on day one but momentum shifted when Virat Kohli adopted a more pugnacious and vocal approach in the field on day two.

Kohli, who called it India’s greatest win since he was appointed captain, then all-but accused counterpart Smith of systematic cheating.

Tensions bubbled over throughout the game but the intensity lifted tenfold when Smith was one of six wickets to fall in yesterday’s post-lunch session.

Smith looked to the changeroom as he mulled whether to review a plumb lbw dismissal. A cantankerous captain stormed across the pitch and confronted his counterpart, late claiming that Australia repeatedly did the same in the match.

I would never do something like that on the cricket field

Match referee Chris Broad contradicted Kohli, suggesting officials were only aware of the one instance. Smith is expected to escape punishment over what he termed a “brain fade”.

The laws of the game dictate that players can’t receive any support from off the field while deciding whether to review an umpire’s decision.

“The umpires knew exactly what was going on,” Kohli claimed.

“I pointed it out to the umpires, that it’s happened twice and I have seen their players looking up there for confirmation and that’s why the umpire was at him.

“We told the match referee as well, and we told the umpires they had been doing that for the last three days and that had to stop.

“There’s a line that you don’t cross on the cricket field, sledging … is different.

“I would never do something like that on the cricket field… I don’t want to mention the word but it falls into that bracket.”

Asked if that word was “cheating”, Kohli replied: “I didn’t say that, you did”.

Australia's captain Steven Smith leaves the field after being dismissed during the fourth day of their second test cricket match against India in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Smith leaves the field after the DRS controversy. Photo: Aijaz Rahi / AP

Smith, speaking prior to Kohli, called it a “brain fade”.

“Petey sort of said ‘look up there’,” Smith said.

“I turned around and said ‘what do you reckon’… I was looking at our boys. I shouldn’t have done that .

“That’s probably the first time it’s happened.”

But Kohli didn’t cop Smith’s explanation.

“The way I left the ball in Pune, getting hit on the off stump, that was a brain fade. If something is going on for three days, that’s not a brain fade,” Kohli said.

“The videos are out there for everyone to see and it was getting repetitive.

“I saw it two times when I was batting.”

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) added further fuel to the fire by referring to the flashpoint as “dressing room review system” on its Twitter account.

Both umpires took Kohli aside after the incident, giving him yet another talking to during what was an incredibly spiteful Test.

Smith and Kohli were involved in a handful of heated confrontations during the game. Cricketers from both sides are likely to be hit with fines.

The pair have history – having verbally clashed on and off the field in the past.

“Me and Virat were just having a little bit of chat out there. There was not much in it. Just a bit of fun, a bit of banter,” Smith said of the pair’s running verbal battle.

“It’s nice to occasionally engage in those kind of conversations.

“The game was played in good spirits … I don’t think anyone crossed the line.”

Smith was booed during the post-match ceremony, while the crowd chanted “go home Aussies”.

“We weren’t up to it today… it was a great Test match, it certainly ebbed and flowed,” Smith said.

“It (the pitch) was quite hard to play… but Test match cricket isn’t supposed to be easy.

“There’s always plenty happening on a wicket like that. You’re always going to see lots of appealing, lots of referrals.

“Emotions are always high in Australia and India clashes… it was a great contest.”

Kohli incurred the majority of the wrath of umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth. India’s skipper was given a series of lectures throughout days two and four.

Illingworth judged David Warner lbw on 17. The vice-captain reviewed the verdict and replays appeared to show him being struck outside the line of off stump.

However, the computer system bizarrely delivered a verdict of ‘umpire’s call’ and Warner was given his marching orders.

Shaun Marsh was then wrongly given out lbw by Llong but opted to walk off because he was wary of wasting the side’s final review. Ball-tracking replays confirmed it would have been overturned.

It was a key turning point. with Australia reasonably well placed at 2-67 and Smith and Marsh both looking as comfortable as any batsman did in the difficult chase.

But they fell in a heap following Marsh’s dismissal, eventually folding for 112 to suffer a 75-run loss.

Marsh was wary of wasting the side’s final review, but Smith convinced him to send it upstairs. Or at least, that was the intention of Australia’s captain.

“We weren’t entirely sure. I sort of said ‘go’. As in ‘go, have a look at it’,” Smith said.

“He sort of turned around and started walking, so I should have probably put my hands up and done it.

“Obviously we saw with the replay it was missing the stumps, so it would have been a nice one to have reviewed.”

Smith admitted Marsh’s non-referral was an important moment in the context of the match.

“Shaun was looking pretty good, so it was a disappointing wicket,” he said.

“But that’s the game of cricket. You have to move on and try and do what you can from there.”

Australia’s use of the Decision Review System (DRS) has been outstanding in the ongoing series, relative to that of the hosts.

But the bungle between Smith and Marsh isn’t the first time that a simple miscommunication has proven costly.

George Bailey told David Warner to refer an lbw dismissal in an ODI against New Zealand last year, only for the vice-captain to walk off.

“I said `go for it’ and he turned around and walked off, so I don’t really know what more he wants from my end,” Bailey noted at the time.

“He said `I wasn’t that confident in what you had said’.”

Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Smith, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood could all be dragged in front of Chris Broad, depending on how the match referee views a handful of flashpoints at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

It would be wrong to suggest relations between the teams are worse than the all-time low of 2007-08, when the ‘monkey-gate’ saga overshadowed a series in Australia.

But Australia arguably haven’t been involved in such a consistently spiteful Test since the 2014 series decider in Cape Town, when Faf du Plessis likened the opposition to a “pack of dogs”.

Unsatisfied with implying Australia were cheating in the second Test, Kohli also has Ian Healy and Nathan Lyon in his firing line, accusing the former Australian wicketkeeper of hypocrisy.

Healy had criticised Kohli’s approach in Bangalore on Sunday, slamming the skipper’s actions as “unacceptable”.

“I’m losing respect for him. He’s continuing his disrespect of the Australian players and umpires,” Healy said.

Kohli quipped that “we’ve got 1.2 billion people in India, one person doesn’t make a difference to my life”.

Despite that he then called on journalists to watch footage of Healy’s reaction to a caught-behind dismissal during a 1997 Test in South Africa.

Healy copped a two-game ban and made a public apology after being booked for dissent.

“I heard he said something about me not having good behaviour with the umpires,” Kohli said.

“You need to go and search on YouTube, when he was given out down the leg side.

“You all should YouTube that video and I think that says it all.”

Healy’s gripe was with the in-your-face antics that unsettled Smith on day two in Bangalore, not Kohli’s show of defiance in response to an lbw dismissal and failed review the following day.

Kohli also took exception to Lyon’s remarks after day one, when the offspinner discussed the importance of dismissing India’s captain.

“He is obviously the head of the snake if you want to put it in Dale Steyn’s terms,” Lyon said, referencing the South African spearhead’s analogy of the Australian team’s reliance on Smith and Warner before their summer tour.

Kohli quipped the “snake did pretty well by itself”.

“It’s not about one individual here, if they keep focusing on the head of the snake then the snake can sting from a lot of directions,” he said.

“Some people need to keep that in mind.

“It was a quite emotional game for us, quite draining … but by far the sweetest victory for us.”

The series continues in Ranchi on March 16.

-AAP

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