Indore: A fine half-century (60) from Usman Khawaja, after Matthew Kuhnemann took his maiden Test five-wicket haul, put Australia in ascendancy with a vital 47-run lead on day one of third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India at the Holkar Stadium, here on Wednesday.
In what was the best day for Australia on the ongoing tour, Kuhnemann ran through India’s batting order, taking 5/16 in his nine overs on a pitch which had sharp turn and variable bounce. Nathan Lyon picked up three wickets while Todd Murphy took out Virat Kohli as India were bundled out for just 109.
Thereafter, Khawaja with his soft hands and a calm head, stitched a vital 96-run stand with Marnus Labuschagne to take Australia to 156/4 in 54 overs at stumps, though the duo fell for 60 and 31 respectively. For India, Ravindra Jadeja took all four Australian wickets and was the only bowler to trouble the visitors’.
Since the start of day, frenetic play was visible and every ball was literally an event. Being out for 109 in 33.2 overs is also India’s lowest Test total at home since 107 and 105 against Australia in Pune 2017 and is their fifth shortest innings while being all-out in-home conditions.
The opening over of Day 1 produced exciting action, as a returning Mitchell Starc produced a faint edge off Rohit Sharma, but Australia didn’t take the review. Replays later showed it could have been a wicket for Australia if the review was taken.
On the fourth ball of the over, Starc hit Rohit’s back pad, but didn’t take a review again. Later on, ball tracking showed three reds, giving Rohit another life. He and Shubman Gill hit six delightful boundaries in the first five overs.
But from there, Australia’s spinners spun a vicious web to trap the Indian batters. Rohit was the first to fall, dancing down the pitch to go over mid-on but couldn’t get to the pitch of the ball as it turned sharply and was stumped off Kuhnemann in the sixth over.
The left-arm spinner returned in his next over as Gill perished to a defensive prod and was caught at first slip. Lyon then got one to turn in sharply and break through Cheteshwar Pujara’s defence to hit the stumps. Jadeja’s promotion also backfired as he couldn’t keep the cut down and was caught at cover off Lyon.
In the next over, Shreyas Iyer chopped on to his stumps off Kuhnemann for a two-ball duck, as India lost five wickets in the first hour’s play. While other batters crumbled, Virat Kohli looked assured in his defence and also found some timely boundaries. But his stay ended at 22 when off-spinner Todd Murphy trapped him in front of stumps. KS Bharat cracked a powerful sweep and slog-sweep, but was also trapped lbw off Lyon at the stroke of lunch.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel hanged around, but Kuhnemann struck again post lunch by getting some turn to take the edge of the former’s bat and was snapped by Alex Carey behind in a good low catch.
A brace of slog-sweeps followed by a hoicked four from Umesh Yadav took India past 100. But Kuhnemann got his five-fer by trapping Umesh lbw which stayed low and hit him on the back pad. Mohammed Siraj was late in responding to the second run from an alert Axar Patel and was out by miles for India’s innings to fold up for 109.
Coming out to bat, India had success instantly as Jadeja trapped Travis Head lbw in his first over, with the left-handed batter given out on review. Jadeja had Labuschagne clean bowled for duck, but replays showed it as no-ball.
India’s desperation to get a wicket showed when they lost two reviews in a span of five overs, both against Khawaja. When Ashwin trapped him lbw, India were cautious in taking a review, which later turned out to be a great chance wasted.
Khawaja and Labuschagne played with soft hands and kept their calm to rotate strike and get boundaries through loose deliveries. India’s bowlers tried too hard, but were unable to get the right line or length to trouble Khawaja and Labuschagne. Khawaja played late and used vertical shots to thrive on a vicious pitch.
The final session began with Khawaja flicking and reverse-sweeping off Jadeja. The duo continued to rotate strike and eventually, Khawaja got his 21st fifty in Test cricket as Australia got their highest partnership of the series.
Labuschagne got stuck against Jadeja from 31st over onwards, beaten by the left-arm spinner at least five times. Jadeja eventually got a slider to fox Labuschagne, who was on backfoot and the ball kept low to crash into the stumps.
After Australia took the lead, Khawaja got the going tough against Jadeja when the left-arm spinner bowled from over the wicket angle. He tried to counter it by sweep, but that caused his downfall as he swept straight to deep mid-wicket off Jadeja.
Steve Smith feasted on some boundaries off Axar and Jadeja, but the Australian captain played down the wrong line and a thin edge was caught behind by KS Bharat behind, becoming the fourth wicket of the left-arm spinner. Cameron Green and Peter Handscomb saw out 5.1 overs till stumps closed a day which went in Australia’s favour.
Brief Scores: Australia 156/4 in 54 overs (Usman Khawaja 60, Marnus Labuschagne 21; Ravindra Jadeja 4/63) lead India 109 all out in 33.3 overs (Virat Kohli 22, Shubman Gill 21; Matthew Kuhnemann 5/16, Nathan Lyon 3/35) by 47 runs
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