India 77 for 1 (Rohit 56*) trail Australia 177 (Labuschagne 49, Smith 37, Jadeja 5-47) by 100 runs
On a helpful surface, Jadeja bowled with accuracy and subtle changes of pace and trajectory. He kept bowling on a length or slightly fuller, but slowed down the odd ball. R Ashwin, who tried much more, contributed with three.
The rhythms of Australia’s innings were typical of a turning track. Scoring and dismissals happened in spurts as Australia looked to cash in on every scoring opportunity, and India were a little impatient with their bowlers knowing the premium on runs on such tracks.
The first spurt of wickets, though, came without any build-up. Australia had won the crucial toss on a pitch where batting last will be treacherous, but there was just enough in it for the fast bowlers for the excellent Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami to remove the openers for 1 run each.
Siraj started off with a beautiful outswinger – the inswinger to left-hand batters – to pitch on leg and move just enough to beat the inside edge of Usman Khawaja and still stay on leg stump. Shami went round the wicket to seam the ball just enough to beat David Warner so comprehensively that he would have been out lbw had the ball not ricocheted to send the off stump cartwheeling.
Labuschagne and Smith managed to hit four boundaries in the next three overs, which brought about a double change: Jadeja and Axar Patel. The ball turned immediately for Jadeja, and India brought back control through a combination of pace and spin. The second half of the first session was bowled by spinners, but Labuschagne and Smith were equal to the task. They went into lunch having added 74 largely assured runs.
Post lunch, though, the ball turned more, and Jadeja ran through the middle order. The one to get Labuschagne was perhaps the best delivery. It was roundarm, dipped on Labuschagne, dragged his back foot out, and then turned away with a puff of dust to leave him stranded. Debutant KS Bharat had his first official dismissal after having substituted for Wriddhiman Saha last year.
Matt Renshaw, arguably keeping out Travis Head who doesn’t have a good record in Asia or against spin, fell first ball as he was caught on the crease and Jadeja turned it past his inside edge from round the wicket.
Then came a spurt of runs with Smith taking on Axar for three boundaries in an over, prompting an immediate change and more runs for Handscomb against R Ashwin. Jadeja, though, dragged them back again with a string of deliveries that turned away big. Smith got into the habit of defending for big turn but one turned only slightly to hold its line in front of off and beat his inside edge to knock back the off stump.
Again came a spurt of runs through Alex Carey’s reverse-sweeps and sweeps. India responded immediately by taking out catching men in front of the wicket to block both the sweeps. Eventually Carey played on a reverse-sweep to give Ashwin his 450th Test wicket and end a 53-run partnership in just 11.1 overs..
Ashwin then followed it up with some classic Ashwin bowling to draw Pat Cummins’ outside edge. He dragged him wide, straight, forward, back before sliding one quicker one in.
Both Jadeja and Ashwin had a shot at a five-for with three wickets, a sight missed for a while as Jadeja last played a home Test in March. The friendly competition was won by Jadeja as he trapped debutant offspinner Todd Murphy and Peter Handscomb lbw either side of the tea break. Handscomb had looked good until he started to farm the strike and played a low-percentage sweep to a full ball. Ashwin finished the innings off with a carrom ball to Scott Boland. Labuschagne’s 49 remained the highest score.
Australia came back on the field with hardly any room for error with the ball left. They hardly had any runs to attack with, and needed everything to go right for their four-man attack.
It was an unfortunate time for their best bowler and captain Cummins to have perhaps his worst day with the ball. He frequently overpitched and strayed on the pads, and Rohit was just ruthless. Three boundaries came in the first over, one between slip and gully and two lovely flicks into the leg side. Just when it looked like Cummins had got the control back with a maiden to KL Rahul, his second over contained two leg-side offerings for Rohit. Cummins’ figures read 3-1-23-0, and India were 26 for 0 in five overs.
Boland provided better control, but Nathan Lyon and Murphy, two similar offspinners, couldn’t extract as much purchase from the pitch as the India spinners did. Whenever they strung together good balls, Rohit was quick with a calculated risk. He stepped out to hit Lyon back over his head for a six in the 14th over and cover-drove every full ball.
With a paddle sweep in the 22nd over, Rohit got to his fifty in just 66 balls, and celebrated it with a regal cover-drive next ball. He had cashed in on early wickets, and then had worn out the spinners to draw the errors.
Just before stumps, though, Murphy drew some consolation for Australia, turning the ball from the rough from round the wicket, and getting on the board in Test cricket with KL Rahul’s wicket.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Leave a Reply