Australia’s batters needed nous, determination, pluck and luck to resist India for an extended period of time and pile on some runs. Usman Khawaja (81, 125b, 12x4, 1x6), Peter Handscomb (72 n.o., 142b, 9x4) and Pat Cummins (33, 59b, 3x4, 2x6) managed to dig out the qualities desired to give their team the unlikely upper hand on day one of the second Test at tea time. Mohammed Shami (4 for 60) then helped clean up the tail as Australia folded for 263 - not a small total for India to chase in the first innings on a pitch likely to break up considerably towards the business end.
India was 20 for 0 at stumps, needing a lot to do obtain a healthy lead.
Four chunky partnership – three involving Khawaja and two involving Handscomb – allowed the visitors to bat out the day despite not being let off the hook, thanks to tight bowling overall by all bowlers. Among the fast bowlers, Mohammed Siraj was hostile while Shami showed his seam-bowling expertise; the spin department was excellent, too, with R. Ashwin (3 for 57) and Jadeja (3 for 68) probing away all day. Amid all the half-chances, plays and misses, and tentative prods, batters showed enterprise to garner some useful runs.
Khawaja was the star of the day for Australia. He thought nothing of taking blows on his body and being beaten repeatedly during the first hour of the day, when Siraj and Shami had their tails up. He rode his luck, too, twice nearly falling to defensive prods to short leg. But he swept and reverse-swept with aplomb, profited with his flick shot off the fast bowlers, and wasn’t afraid to step down the track to R. Ashwin, lofting India’s most prolific off-spinner over his head for a lovely six in the morning.
He was all set for a fighting ton – his first in India – but the reverse-sweep, his ally for most of the day, brought about his downfall as he fell against the run of play to Jadeja, caught out by a diving K. L. Rahul at point. The shot wasn’t needed, especially after he had already got four runs off that shot in the same over, but to a batter thriving on enterprise and risk-taking, the temptation to go for another was understandable.
Handscomb was the other batter to score a half-century. Soon after Khawaja’s dismissal, Handscomb struck a fairly rapid partnership of 59 (87b) with Cummins. Negotiating spin well and being able to judge the length early to commit to either the front foot or the back foot, Handscomb shepherded his team ably for the rest of the innings. His thrived on short-of-a-length deliveries off both spinners and fast bowlers as he was able to play his square drives. Seven of his eight boundaries were off the square drive or the dab to third man. Cummins entertained by pulling out his slog-sweeps for two sixes off Ashwin.
After Cummins was undone by a delivery by Jadeja that went on with the angle after pitching, the innings didn’t last very long. Todd Murphy was bamboozled by Jadeja’s sharp turn, while Nathan Lyon, after entertaining briefly, and debutant Matthew Kuhnemann were both bowled by Shami.
Australia had crossed 250 by then, a milestone that appeared hard to achieve in the first hour of the day’s play. David Warner looked out of sorts during his brief stay; he was repeatedly beaten by Shami and Siraj, and he copped a couple of blows on his body – on his arm and on his helmet. He was hardly able to get the ball off the square until the 10 th over, when he punched one through cover for a boundary off Siraj. Shami eventually got him with a short-of-a-length delivery bowled from around the wicket – he was cramped for room, and edged to the slips. He later used the same trick to see the back of Travis Head, who came into the team in place of Matt Renshaw probably because of his spin-bowling abilities.
Ashwin’s mastery that handed India two wickets in an over was also a highlight of the first session. Labuschagne prepared to defend what he expected to be a straight delivery, but the ball came in sharply after pitching on a good length and he was dismissed lbw. Minutes later, Steve Smith looked for the turn but the ball, from around the wicket, went on with the angle, taking the edge of the bat. With Head’s dismissal, Australia had lost three wickets for 17 runs.
The top order may have been rattled, but there was life in Australia yet. Without dominating a single phase of play, batters did just enough to ensure a good total.
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