Jasprit Bumrah and R. Ashwin took seven wickets between them to hand India the advantage on Day One of the second Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. India bowled Australia out for 195 and was 36 for 1 in its first innings at stumps.
India lost opener Mayank Agarwal for a duck to Mitchell Starc but debutant Shubman Gill (28 n.o.) survived a hostile spell and hit some delectable boundaries in the day to ease India’s nerves.
Giving him company was the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara (7 n.o.).
The day belonged to the Indian bowling unit for another fired-up show, and stand-in captain Rahane deserves equal credit for marshalling his resources well during the 72.3 overs that Australia batted.
Besides Bumrah (4 for 56) and Ashwin (3 for 35), India was also helped by its debutant Mohammed Siraj, who took two crucial wickets in his 15-over spell. The fast bowler dismissed Marnus Labuschagne (48) and Cameron Green (12) with the old ball.
Ashwin once again made the opposition’s best batsman Steve Smith (0) look ordinary, exploiting the turn and bounce that the first day track offered.
It was business as usual for Bumrah as he beat the bat and got breakthroughs when it mattered on a pitch that retained moisture. As it turned out, Rahane didn’t lose a bad toss.
The Indian team looked more galvanised than the the first Test despite being without regular skipper Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave. Some great catches were taken and the intent was more visible than in the first Test.
Rahane’s first punt was to introduce Ashwin inside the first hour of play after Bumrah forced Joe Burns (0) to nick one to Rishabh Pant.
Ashwin, who varied the pace of his deliveries cleverly, got some turn and bounce straightaway as he drew Matthew Wade into coming down the track and skying one for India’s best fielder Ravindra Jadeja to take a well-judged catch running backwards.
After bowling one that jumped and turned, beating Smith and Pant, Ashwin kept the next a tad straighter and the former Australian skipper’s glance was pouched by Cheteshwar Pujara at leg gully.
All this while, Bumrah was beating the bat at the other end.
Interestingly, Rahane didn’t give the debutant a single over before lunch break as he knew that Siraj’s strength is generating pace and movement with semi-new and old ball.
Siraj initially bowled a bit short at Labuschagne and Travis Head (38 off 92 balls) as they added 86 runs for the fourth wicket.
It was Bumrah who provided the post-lunch breakthrough with a delivery that held its line; left-hander Head’s thick edge was taken by Rahane at gully.
Siraj’s maiden wicket was a lucky one as the ball was drifting down the leg side which Labuschagne tried to whip but Gill, stationed at backward square leg, snapped it inches off the ground.
The Hyderabad pacer’s second wicket was a much fuller ball with a hint of inward movement that caught Green plumb in-front.
Skipper Tim Paine (13) couldn’t script a rescue act like Adelaide as a classical off-break saw him guide one straight into the hands of Hanuma Vihari at backward square leg.
Bumrah didn’t take much time after that as he and Ravindra Jadeja (1 for 15) polished off the tail quickly.
During the final hour of the day, Gill showed what Indian cricket can expect of him in the new decade. He displayed positive intent and some dazzling strokes that would certainly leave fans yearning for more in the coming days. An off-drive off Pat Cummins, a punch through cover and a flick off Starc were exhilarating.
The cover-drive off Nathan Lyon had class written all over it.
India trails 0-1 in the series after going down by eight wickets in the opening day-night Test in Adelaide. The visiting team was dismissed for its lowest Test score of 36.
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