On Sunday (February 19) morning, India entered the day with their spinners being put under rare pressure at home. Australia’s furious start had left them rattled, and the visitors started with a distinct advantage having already enjoyed their best day on tour so far. And there was an even lesser indication that they would crumble as dramatically as they did, losing four wickets for 0 runs at one point.
The trigger did not start with just R Ashwin getting the better of the dangerous-looking Travis Head in the first over. Rather, it was started by the offspinner, beginning to work around a different line of attack against the likes of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. It was an intriguing period of play with Ashwin pulling out of his action multiple times, presumably to spot the batter’s movements for the non-strikers weren’t straying out. Soon enough Labuschagne played with his line from the stumps to play a deft paddle sweep for a boundary, and as Ashwin continued from the round-the-wicket angle he also brought out a reverse sweep for good measure.
Rohit Sharma, after the day’s play, said that he felt that his spinners had panicked a little on the previous day. “Yesterday, we bowled about 12 overs and they were 62  which is more than 5.5 [5.05] runs an over. I could see that we were panicking a bit, trying to change fields way too many times. In the morning, we wanted to tell those three spinners, ‘keep it calm and we don’t need to change fields, we don’t need to change fields as often as we did last evening’,” he’d say.
But after two boundaries had come, Rohit went up to have a chat with Ashwin and following their discussion, it was decided that Ashwin would switch to over the wicket now. This was in spite of him beating the bat a couple of times from the other side with ones going straight on. It was also followed by straighter fields that did not allow for easy singles to be worked through on the onside. A gap behind square seemed a good option to get runs going, particularly for Smith who, like the rest of the Australian line-up, was intent on getting quick runs. While there are some who are confident sweepers of the ball, the former Australian skipper isn’t among them but yet this one seemed to be something he had premeditated. The first sweep he attempted proved to be perilous as he missed a ball keeping a little low but turning in and was trapped LBW.
It was also a portent of Australia’s downfall in the rest of the innings.
Matt Renshaw was the next to fall missing a sweep, and being hit low on the pad again. Alex Carey and Pat Cummins would also be guilty of being too eager to play the shot, and in matter of over an hour Australia went from challenging India to being blown away.
“We probably overplayed it here in the second innings,” admitted a rueful Cummins later in the day. “Two big things we talk about are the tempo of the game, and the method. Maybe at times too high tempo, I’d rather be high tempo than low tempo though to be honest with those wickets being difficult. We went a little bit away from it [methods],” he’d add.
While India’s preferred method remains different as they outlined later in the day, the sweep had been an ally, and still a strength as a scoring shot for many in the Australian team, as Usman Khawaja had displayed in the first innings, and Carey briefly over the few innings he’s played. At the Ferozshah Kotla, however, it turned out to be an incredible bane in an inopportune session.