When the series began, it was expected the spin twins of Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja would cause havoc – and that there was little chance the opposition batsmen would be able to keep them out.
Of course, this was all about India’s top two ranked bowlers in the world at the start of the series.
By the end of the first day of the Second Test of the series the focus had switched to Australia’s own spin pairing.
Nathan Lyon took 8-50 as India were bowled out for 189 having won the toss. Steve O’Keefe chipped in with a wicket of his own to add to the twelve that he took during Australia’s 333 run win in the opening Test last week.
Australia’s own spin partnership has come to life enjoying the turn offered in the pitches prepared by the Indian curators. They have taken 26 of the 30 wickets to have fallen in the series so far, 13 each at an average of exactly 9.
This remarkable return by Lyon means that he has taken 58 wickets against India. This is the most by an Australian bowler passing Brett Lee’s 53.
His figures on the first day are the best bowling in an innings by any visiting bowler to India. Lance Klusener had the previous best figures when he took 8-64 for South Africa in Calcutta in 1996.
In Pune there was considerable turn and although Nathan Lyon bowled well the harder surface at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore suited him even better. He used his height as he often does to obtain disconcerting bounce.
He also obtained great variety in the amount of spin he was extracting. The occasional delivery would end up in the hands of Steve Smith stationed at first slip. Others, like the one that caught Virat Kohli in front of his wicket without playing a shot, went straight on.
This misjudgement by Kohli immediately raised further questions about the state of the cricket mind of India’s captain. This was the second innings in a row where Kohli had left a ball alone that he should have been playing at. During the second innings in Pune he shouldered arms to a ball from Steve O’Keefe that went on to hit his off stump.
Lyon’s previous best bowling in first class cricket was in Delhi in the final Test of Australia’s last series in India when he took 7-94, also in the first innings. It hadn’t been an easy series for him having taken 6 wickets at an average of 65.8 up to that point. By comparison, Ashwin and Jadeja ended up with 53 between them over the four Tests.
He didn’t have a spin partner in Chennai for the first Test of that series with Australia opting for the medium pace of Moises Henriques as they wanted to boost the batting line up. He was then dropped for the second Test in Hyderabad with Xavier Doherty taking his place.
For the third Test in Mohali where the side was muddled by the homework fiasco that saw four players dropped, he played alongside Doherty he was found wanting again as he went for 1-124 in 31 overs.
India had won the series by the time that final Test took place when Lyon finally had some success. He found himself with yet another spin partner down the other end with Glen Maxwell replacing Doherty.
Despite all of this chopping and changing, Lyon managed to produce career best figures finishing with nine wickets in the match. More importantly, he had learned to play the conditions.
“I learned a lot on and off the field," said Lyon. "I could sit here all night and talk to you about it. It's just about learning about playing cricket in tough conditions.
"It's the toughest place to play cricket.”
Australia’s excellent preparation for this series including the time spent in Dubai seems to have honed his skills ready for the surfaces in India. Perhaps more importantly he knows that barring an injury such as the one he suffered in Sri Lanka, O’Keefe will be at the other end. Finally there is some stability for him.
O’Keefe’s performance in Pune guaranteed him a place in the second Test and probably the whole series. Lyon does not have as much weight on his shoulders with another experienced and successful spinner at the other end. He can relax into his work and put in performances that have earned him the nickname of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time – No Australian off-spinner has taken more wickets).
Lyon was quick to praise the support of O’Keefe’s bowling: “I was pretty happy with the way I bowled in Pune and working with Steve O'Keefe (SOK) there was an absolute privilege.
"I think we both bowl well together. We are both different bowlers but we are really good mates which helps. We want to see each other do well.
"I owe SOK a lot of those wickets today, bowling in partnerships.”
The pair have played in 14 Sheffield Shield matches together since Lyon moved to New South Wales from South Australia. In those games they have taken 79 wickets between them: 39 for Lyon and 40 for O’Keefe.
They know each other well enough to work on tactics together as Lyon explained: “We had to assess the conditions early in the day and Steven O'Keefe and I had a conversation out there and said there were a couple jumping so I looked at my overspin and got a couple to jump.
"It was pleasing to get some good bounce out there.”
They have now taken that symmetry of sharing the wicket taking into this Test series with 13 wickets apiece so far.
As Lyon said: “Steve O'Keefe and I are really working well together.
"I'm able to get a decent amount of turn and SOK's able to do both. He's quite talented in the way he releases the ball and goes underneath it a little bit more than I do, so he's able to get those front pads but that's where i think we're really working well together.”