India vs Australia: Australia Edge Ahead After Hard-Fought Day at Perth

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Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch and Travis Head scored half-centuries to give Australia an edge after an eventful first day’s play in the second Test against India in Perth.At stumps, Australia were 277 for 6 with Tim Paine and Pat Cummins in the middle. Harris (70), Finch (50), Head (58) and Shaun Marsh (45) had all got scores on a pitch that was doing plenty, making batting difficult. Ishant Sharma and Hanuma Vihari bagged two wickets for India, but it was Jasprit Bumrah (1 for 41) who was the bowler of the day.
Australia needed a couple of things to go their way to move on from the first Test defeat. First, the toss. The box was ticked and Australia opted to bat on what looked like a lively, green track. And then, the first session. That too went Australia’s way, for their openers played out a wicket-less couple of hours, taking them to 66 for no loss.

India played four pacers, with the fourth being Umesh Yadav ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. It signalled that they were going for an all-out attack even if it meant their lower-order batting could be compromised. But perhaps due to the ‘excitement’ that Virat Kohli spoke about on the eve of the game, the pacers were not on the money in the first hour. Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris settled in, looked confident, and got off to solid starts.

But it didn’t take much time for India to get back on track. The turnaround started after the first hour, when the pacers maintained more consistency in the outside off-stump channel. Only 18 runs came in 13 overs after the drinks interval, although they couldn’t quite get the breakthrough.

That breakthrough arrived soon after lunch. Both openers went past their fifties, but the arrival of Bumrah for his third spell swung the game India’s way in the second session. He first had Finch lbw with a quick, full ball. He then had Usman Khawaja dancing to his tunes in a terrific spell of 140 kmph+ bowling. Khawaja had no escape, and managed only 1 run off his first 23 balls.

Bumrah’s spell read 5-3-3-1, and the pressure resulted in Umesh dismissing Khawaja. The sight of a change in bowler made Khawaja attempt a cut, but managed only a thick edge to the keeper. Soon, Hanuma Vihari got one to kick off from a good length and had Harris edging to slip. Harris had been dropped by KL Rahul on 60 off Mohammed Shami, but managed to add only 10 more runs.

The second session success was a consequence of superb Test match play by India. Even when the openers were in the midst of a 112-run stand, they kept the discipline and patience, choked the run-flow, and eventually got the wickets. It extended on the other side of the break too, when Kohli sprung himself to his right to hold on to a one-handed stunner at second slip to dismiss Peter Handscomb off Ishant Sharma. From a comfortable 112 for no loss, Australia slipped to 148 for 4.

Batting was suddenly a lot more difficult, with the odd ball jumping up rapidly and bowlers getting extra bounce consistently. Shaun Marsh and Travis Head fought through all that in an 84-run stand in the third session to ensure Australia didn’t surrender the advantage completely. Marsh was steady in defence, while Head took a few more chances, getting runs through cuts and punches.

The partnership should have been broken much earlier but Rishabh Pant dropped a regulation edge off Marsh on 24. Vihari was the unfortunate bowler then, but ultimately had Marsh when he edged a cut to slip.

Unlike Marsh, Head didn’t miss his half-century. But he threw it away soon, edging a big drive all the way to third man giving Ishant his second wicket. Cummins and Paine survived a testing spell from Bumrah to ensure no more hiccups.

First Published: December 14, 2018, 3:37 PM IST