When Mitchell Starc got his banana swing going as early as the first over of India’s innings late on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test, uncomfortable memories would have sprung back on the minds of fans. Mayank Agarwal was dismissed for 0 by the left-arm pacer who was unplayable in his first over.
Pat Cummins made sure his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate and debutant Shubman Gill understand the gulf in difference between the Indian Premier League and Test cricket as he was unplayable in his first over. Starc and Cummins were on the money as they were making good use of the swing and carry that was on offer at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. India’s score read 0 for 1 in the first three overs as the Starc and Cummins kept beating the edges, days after Australia bowled India for their lowest-Test score of 36-all out in Adelaide.
However, a straight drive from Shubman Gill helped settle the nerves in Pat Cummins’s 2nd over. The opener grew in confidence as he played some delightful strokes and, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, made sure India did not suffer any further setbacks before the close of what was another high-quality day of play in the ongoing 4-Test series in Australia. Gill was so confident towards the close of play as he held his pose after defending Josh Hazlewood with a straight bat.
Incidentally, India ended Day 1 on 36 for 1.
Jasprit Bumrah, R Ashwin lead India’s strong fightback
Earlier in the day, Ajinkya Rahane’s tactical masterclass was on display as India’s lead bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin stepped up and delivered in the absence of Mohammed Shami, who was ruled out with an injury after the 1st Test.
India showed tremendous character to put behind the horrors of 36-all out and came up with a nearly-perfect bowling performance. There was a lot of chatter in the lead up to the 2nd Test as India were staring at an uphill task in the absence of Virat Kohli and Shami. However, the “new India” that was missing in Adelaide, was certainly on display on Saturday.
Jasprit Bumrah helped calm the nerves with the early wicket of Joe Burns, who seems to be struggling to identify where his off-stump is.
Just when Matthew Wade was attacking and looking to take the session away from India, Rahane came up with a masterstroke by introducing spin as early as the 11th over. Rahane had pointed out at the toss that there was a bit of moisture on the MCG wicket and his lead spinner, R Ashwin exploited it beautifully.
He got Matthew Wade when the left-handed opener tried to take him on and removed the big fish, Steve Smith for 0 as early as his third over. With their tails up, India went into the lunch break, having Australia at 65 for 3.
However, in the 2nd session, there was strong resistance from Travis Head and Labuschagne as Rahane seemed to have missed a trick by not opening the attack with Bumrah. Mohammed Siraj was given the responsibility of opening the attack post-lunch as she shared the relatively old ball with Ashwin.
Head and Labuschagne looked positive and added 86 runs for the 3rd wicket. However, Rahane got his main man Jasprit Bumrah back into the attack and he immediately delivered, removing Head by setting him up with a barrage of short balls.
Mohammed Siraj delivers on dream debut
Then it was time for Siraj to step up. The young pacer came up with a dreamy second spell. He was spot on with his lines and lengths and kept asking questions of young Cameron Green and Marnus Labuschagne. While he removed the latter with a perfectly set-up leg-side trap, Siraj came up with a stunning over to get Green with one that seamed back in and trapped him LBW.
Siraj made sure India didn’t miss Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma as he bowled with a lot of control and pace throughout the day.
There was a controversial run-out decision from third umpire Paul Wilson when Tim Paine was not given not out. However, Paine did not make much use of it as the Australian skipper was dismissed for 13 by Ashwin who came back and haunted Australia.
Fortunately, India did not have any problems with removing the Australian tail. Jasprit Bumrah picked up Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, who flaunted his batting skills a bit. But India got the last 5 Australian wickets for just 40 runs on a terrific day of Test cricket.