The Border-Gavaskar battle within a battle between Steve Smith and Virat Kohli was billed as something that could potentially decide the series.
On day three of the second Test, as has often been the case during the past fortnight, Smith fired and Kohli folded.
India’s inspired fightback gave the top-ranked Test side hope of squaring the series in Bangalore, but Kohli added just 15 runs to his side’s cause.
India were cruising at 1-84, having wrestled momentum back with ball then bat, when Smith snaffled what Matthew Hayden termed a “Superman” slips catch.
KL Rahul, having become the third opener to pass 50 in both innings of a Bangalore Test, looked destined for a ton before Smith flew to his right.
The spectacular one-handed effort, every bit as good as the many memorable catches Smith has held for Australia, triggered a collapse of 3-36 that included the key scalp of Kohli.
Kolhi and Smith had swapped barbs when the latter was batting on day two. Their running battle continued yesterday, when Smith quipped “the skipper’s angry again” shortly before Josh Hazlewood trapped Kohli lbw.
Kohli’s anger turned to near-uncontrollable rage after his dismissal was upheld by third Richard Kettleborough.
A stunned Kohli straddled the line of dissent for the second Test in a row, making it clear he believed the ball hit bat before pad.
The fiery right-hander eventually trudged off the field, shaking his head then pointing the toe of his bat to the crowd.
Smith will be filthy with himself for putting down a far less challenging catch when Cheteshwar Pujara was on four, but his contribution on a day when Australia’s bowlers lacked control was far more meaningful than that of Kohli.
Smith dominated the first round in Pune, producing arguably the best century of is career in Australia’s first Test win in India since 2004.
Kohli quarrelled with teammates and umpires in the field during the first Test, also registering his first ever Test duck at home.
The gloves came off before the second Test. Smith suggested India were under pressure, Kohli countered it was “mind games” from his counterpart.
“Does it look like it?” he responded to questions about whether India were under pressure.
“I’m pretty relaxed. I’m happy. I’m smiling. It’s fine. His views and whatever he wants to say,” Kohli snapped.
The talented batsmen have history.
Kohli was fined for remonstrating with Smith during a 2014 Test at Adelaide Oval, while Smith took exception to a send-off at the same venue during a Twenty20 in 2016.
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