As the dust settles from their 333-run victory over India in Pune last week, and with their increasing stranglehold on the second Test in Bangalore, Australia have reason to smile as they search for a series victory that seemed impossible to begin with.
No one gave the Australians a chance when they headed over to India for the four-match Test series. Considering the recent form of the Indians, coupled with the relative inexperience in foreign conditions of the bulk of the Aussie team, everyone predicted a 4-0 series whitewash by Virat Kohli's rampant Indian side, with many picturing Steve Smith handing over the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Last week, however, Smith and his young team ground the Indians into the dirt during the first Test, eventually sealing a victory that was 4502 days in the making. Use any word you'd like - obliterated, destroyed, smashed - it all means the same, with Australia setting an intimidating precedent for the series.
As far as Test match results are concerned, Australia's victory in Pune ranks among the best performances in their history. Several factors were thrown in the face of the Aussies, but they managed to prove their naysayers wrong. There was the degree of difficulty provided by the Indian conditions, with spin, turn and bounce all on show. There was the opportunity to create something from nothing after a seemingly meagre first innings total. Most significantly, there was the quality of the opposition, with India previously unbeaten in Tests for over a year.
Fast forward to the second Test currently underway in Bangalore, and after Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first on a seemingly flat pitch, the Indians were bundled out for 189. At stumps on Day 2, Australia are at 6/237 in reply, setting up an attacking second half of the match.
The Australian selectors chose a 16-man squad to tour India, so who are the players that have contributed to one of the most important sporting performances of 2017?
Despite being one of the most consistent domestic bowlers in Australia over the last few years, it seemed left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe fluffed his chance at a Baggy Green against Sri Lanka last year. In the first Test last week, 'SOK' defied all expectations, single-handedly winning Australia the match. Presented with a dusty Pune pitch, O'Keefe had an expensive start to his spell in India's first innings, but when Steve Smith gave him a second spell, he sliced through the Indian batting line-up, taking the last six wickets in just 24 deliveries to skittle the hosts for just 105. He then took another six wickets in the second innings to claim outstanding match figures of 12-70. His reward? Harbhajan Singh, who labelled this the worst Australian squad to tour India, refused to praise O'Keefe and said the pitch alone led to India's loss.
Matt Renshaw nearly shat his pants - literally - during the first Test, having to sprint off the field to combat a stomach disagreeing with the previous night's curry. He copped some flak for running off the field, but his initiative was gutsy, and his batting more so. Considering he is only 20 years old, Renshaw's persistence and confidence is astounding. His first-innings 68 in Pune was a masterclass in patient batting, giving the Aussies the platform to score on what was a ticking time bomb of a pitch. Yesterday's 60 off 196 balls in Bangalore also helped steer the Aussies to a competitive total in Australia's first innings of the second Test. He will leave the sub-continent twice the player he was, and has almost certainly pencilled in a long career wearing the Baggy Green.
Say what you will about Nathan Lyon. Yes, he has struggled to turn matches for Australia when the conditions suited him. Yes, he lacks the variety of other top-line spinners. Overshadowed by O'Keefe in the first Test, and with detractors nipping at his heels, Lyon needed to make a statement in Bangalore. India won the toss and elected to bat on what looked like a road of a pitch, but were rolled for 189 after tea, Lyon taking a remarkable 8-50 as he found the Bangalore pitch well-suited to his overspin. Importantly, Lyon had Virat Kohli in all sorts, with the Indian captain dismissed LBW after shouldering arms to a delivery which failed to turn as much as he expected.
Obviously, Mitchell Starc is an incredible fast bowler, and he broke India open in the first Test after dismissing Kohli for a duck when the Indian skipper flashed at a wide one. However, from 205 for 9 in the first innings in Pune, the Aussies were carried to 9/256 at stumps by Starc, who played a mature innings of tactical aggression. He was dismissed shortly after the resumption of play on Day 2, but his 63-ball knock of 61 gave Australia the template to take the fight right to the Indian batsman.
In the first Test, Steve Smith mastered the difficult conditions to bring up one of the finest centuries in an already-glittered Test career. The Pune pitch was riddled with demons, but on a wicket that no other batsman looked comfortable on, Smith manipulated India's spinners to help Australia to a healthy second innings lead. Smith may have been dropped several times, and he also avoided an LBW shout, but his gutsy century was easily one of his best. Smith's captaincy has also been outstanding, with the skipper finding ways to balance the workload of his fast bowlers with the reliance of his spinners. With his tactics improving throughout this series, and with a home Ashes summer looming, Smith is well on track to lead the Aussies to some well-earned success.
UPDATE: Australia is once again on top in the second test, ahead of India in their first innings total by nearly 100 runs.