Steve Smith heaped lavish praise on Steve O’Keefe after the left-arm spinner’s career best match figures of 12 for 70 helped Australia end India’s 19-match unbeaten streak. The team from Down Under were the underdogs when the series began but they defied all the odds to crush the world number one side by 333 runs to take the lead in the four-match series.
This was Australia’s first victory in India since 2004 when the Ricky Ponting-led side won the series in the Indian subcontinent. And as expected, the Australia skipper was very delighted with the win. Speaking at the post-match conference, the 27-year old expressed his views on the win, his knock in the second innings, pitch and more.
On how good was the win:
Right up there. Coming to India, we haven’t won a game here in 4,502 days. I’ve been told those facts. So it has been an incredibly long time. Guys have been excited by the opportunity to come and play here. We know it’s a great challenge, and this game the boys were up to the challenge. I think it was fortunate, day 1, (to) win the toss and post 260 on that wicket was very good. And then our bowlers went to work. I thought Sock (Steve O’Keefe) was absolutely amazing to consistently land the ball in good areas and get the natural variation was absolutely outstanding. It was well supported by Nathan Lyon and the two fast bowlers as well.
On his 109-run knock in the second innings:
It’s going to be right up there as well. I obviously rode my luck throughout the innings, had a few lives. But you need a bit of luck on a wicket like that, and I was pleased with myself to score a second innings hundred in India. (I had to) formulate some different plans than how I normally play and sort of problem solving on the spot. So from that aspect I’m pleased with myself. It was great that we were able to get such a big lead and give our bowlers plenty to bowl at.
On his spinners:
I think both and Nathan and Steve bowled a really good length, and just hit that length consistently. If you are challenging the defence and if you’re able to beat the bat on both sides, you have a real good chance to take wickets on that wicket. Sock was able to beat the bat on both sides and find the edge and hit the pad consistently. If you’re attacking the stumps enough like that, then you’re going to get rewards.
On the pitch:
I think it was certainly a wicket that would more likely suit the Indian players. I think it evened up the contest a lot more. We saw the way our spinners bowled on that, they were able to generate some good spin and good natural variation out of the wicket. So, it was upto them to prepare a wicket, and they prepared a wicket that actually played into our hands. It would be interesting to see what they come up with come Bangalore.
On what will he tell his team after the win:
Congratulations. Terrific job over the last three days. But it’s only one game. It’s a four-match series and we’d like to win the series, as you like to do with every series. For us it’s about taking it one day at a time and continuing to worry about our processes. If we do that like we did in this game, hopefully the result will take care of itself. But it’s going to be a tough road, we know India are going to come back incredibly hard. They’re an amazing team, particularly in their own backyard. They’re going to come back hard. And we’ve got to be ready for it.
On lessons from the thrashing received at the hands of Sri Lanka:
We probably kept the foot on the throat. When we got ourselves in the positions to win in Sri Lanka, we let the opposition get back into the game. In this Test, we didn’t let India back in the game after the first innings. So that is pleasing that we’re learning and trying to improve in different ways. It was certainly a positive that we were able to dominate throughout the Test match.
On his team’s ploy of bowling fuller:
I think, obviously a lot of their right-handers and left-handers got beaten a lot on the outside edge of the bat. Those guys are big spinners of the ball and generally it’s the one that goes straight that gets you in a bit of trouble. It’s great that guys are learning and actually playing for that straight one and allowing the one to spin past the bat. That’s been a big learning curve for us as a team for a while. It’s great that we were able to implement the things we have practised and talked about in the game. In regards to our spinners, SOKs, compared to Jadeja, probably goes a little bit wider of the crease and a little bit more side-arm. So, potentially, (he) doesn’t have to get the ball to straighten quite as much to find the outside edge. It’s really smart bowling and you get the rewards for that.
On whether his team executed the plans perfectly:
Wouldn’t say it was perfect. We did a lot of things right in this Test match, that’s for sure. But there are still areas that we can improve on. In the first innings we lost a few in clumps and then needed Starky’s (Mitchell Starc’s) innings to score 260 which was a big moment in the game. So for us it’s about continuing to identify those periods where we need to knuckle down and get through and show some fight and resilience and come out at the other end of that. We know as batters the longer you are out in the middle, things get easier. So it’s about trying to find a plan when you first get out there. Guys had some good plans throughout this Test match and stuck to them. Sometimes they don’t come off but a lot of the time if you have confidence in it, over a long period of time it will work. The plans the guys had in this test match were really good.
On the pressure on his team prior to the match:
The pressure was on us. Everyone wrote us off and expected India to win four-nil. That can’t happen anymore. It’s great to have won this first test match and there is still long way to go throughout this series. India are going to come back hard. I am really proud of the way the boys have played in this test match and go one-up in this series.
For me if its given not-out in the middle and we think it’s out, we generally have a crack. You don’t want to guess too much on those sort of wickets. Think it was fortunate that the first two batters used up the reviews early on this particular innings. On these kind of wickets you have those little inside edges and balls that are skidding past the bat a long way nice to have one up your sleeve, a real shocker.
On the remaining matches:
It’s certainly going to be a difficult next three Test matches. India are a quality side here in their own backyard and they are going to come back hard at us. For us it’s continuing to worry about the processes and if we do that for long periods hopefully we can have more success on this tour.
On Steve O’Keefe:
I love Socks’ willingness to learn different things and try and adapt to different conditions. I know he has worked with Sri, that’s with us on this tour and Monty back home. He is able to to bowl differently to what he bowls at home. Back home, he gets over the top of the ball a lot more, here he gets rounded and changes his seam positions and gets the most natural variation out of the wicket. Very similar to Jadeja, I guess, and we have seen how dangerous he has been in these conditions for a long time and SOK is clearly no different. I am really proud of him, he has worked hard to get here. He had a few sacrifices, obviously getting pulled out of the Big Bash at home and concentrating on this tour and be a big part of it and really proud how well he started in this series.
It was more just for us to play the game. I think sometimes you can think negatively about the situation at hand. For us we have had some disappointing tours of the sub-continent recently. Sri Lanka and last time we were here as well. For us, it was putting that out of our mind and just concentrating on the job at hand and taking one ball at a time. It’s very cliche but you have to do that over here. We had a very positive frame of mind coming here and we were confident if we stuck to our plans and processes for long enough we can succeed and that showed in this Test match and hopefully we can continue to do well in the series.
On Virat Kohli:
I think he was getting a little bit angry on the fielders for dropping catches. He is obviously a world class player and we expect him to come back hard. Players miss out now and then and unfortunately he missed out for us in this game.