India vs Australia: Harris, Head hit fifties as Indian bowlers toil

On a day of steady runs and three wickets lost apiece in the second and third sessions of the second India vs Australia Test, Paine’s men would like to believe that they hold the reins. 

Indian players walk off the field at the end of first day's play in Perth.   -  AP Photo

Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma stood close to the ground's edge. The shadows were creeping across the Optus Stadium. The last session of the second Test’s opening day, was set to commence.

Ishant cracked a joke, Kohli laughed hard and it looked as though the two men from Delhi, were at Connaught Place, and planning some mischief.

Minutes later, the duo was in the thick of action. Sharma angled across Peter Handscomb. The Australian cut, the ball flew, Kohli leapt sideways at second slip, his right hand darted out like lightning, and an incredible catch was plucked.

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Australia was 148 for four, and the dismissal marked another belated attempt from India towards winging back into a crucial game that began here on Friday. Still, Australia has the edge and its tail is alive.

After the host cruised to a lunch score of 66 for no loss, India seemed lost under the skies that blazed at 38 degrees. But gradually Kohli’s men mildly reduced the after-effects of the damage suffered in the morning and at close, Australia scored 277 for six.

Shaun Marsh (45) and Travis Head (58) steadied the home team’s first innings with an 84-run fifth-wicket partnership and then the former cut Hanuma Vihari straight to a falling Ajinkya Rahane at first slip.

Previously, Vihari had watched Rishabh Pant drop Marsh on 24. The vengeance was slow and Kohli was overjoyed. And when Head perished to the second new ball, slashing Ishant, India had something to cheer. 

Openers begin solidly

Earlier, just as Perth’s denizens applied sunscreen and stepped out, the Optus Stadium warmed up for its Test debut. Inside, the players limbered up and fortune favoured Tim Paine. The host skipper won the toss, opted to bat and India, meanwhile, took a punt based on the pitch’s green tinge. The pace quartet - Ishant, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, was picked, and the lone spinner was part-timer Vihari.

It was obvious that India preferred pace-potency but the absence of a regular spinner meant that as and when the pitch deteriorates under the baking heat, Australia will have an advantage thanks to Nathan Lyon.

Perhaps Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s swing and doughty batting or Ravindra Jadeja’s unerring spin would have helped. But they were overlooked and it was time for the fast men to live upto Kohli’s hopes.   

Bumrah breathed fire with the second new ball.   -  ap

 

History was ushered in with steady claps as the first delivery of this venue’s maiden Test, was delivered. Just that Ishant bowled it down the leg side past Marcus Harris. It became a recurrent theme through the morning as India’s spearhead lost his radar.

The Australian openers were allowed to prosper. Aaron Finch pulled Bumrah, Harris straight drove Ishant, and like most southpaws, picked his off-side spots. The speed merchants were rusty and Australia savoured a fine start. Only when Shami rapped Finch’s pads or while Bumrah teased around the off-stump, did India exert some control.  

The narrative churned in the second session. Harris (70) and Finch (50) got their fifties, registered a 112-run partnership but the latter fell to Bumrah, as he got trapped in line with the stumps. Harris motored on but Usman Khawaja tried to dab Umesh over slips and edged.

Two overs later, Vihari’s seemingly innocuous delivery, once it pitched, acquired a ghastly after-life. The ball reared, Harris fended and Rahane caught well at first slip. In a while, Australia gingerly moved to 145 for three at tea.

But on a day of steady runs and three wickets lost apiece in the second and third sessions, Paine’s men would like to believe that they hold the reins.