2nd Test, Day 1: Rohit, Rahul remain unbeaten at stumps after Shami four-fer bowls out Australia for 263 (ld)

2nd Test, Day 1: Rohit, Rahul remain unbeaten at stumps after Shami four-fer bowls out Australia for 263 (ld)

Rohit and Rahul are not out on 13 and 4 respectively after senior pacer Mohammed Shami picked four wickets while the spin duo of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja took three wickets each to bowl out Australia for 263 in the first innings.

For Australia, who elected to bat first after winning the toss, left-handed opener Usman Khawaja was precise in footwork and pristine in strokeplay to make 81, the first fifty by a visiting batter on the ongoing tour. Peter Handscomb looked impressive in his 72 not out. But losing wickets in back-to-back fashion thrice may come to hurt them later on.

Rohit began by standing tall and punching past point off his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins in the opening over. Debutant Matthew Kuhnemann and Nathan Lyon found some extra bounce and turn as Rohit and K.L. Rahul were defending patiently. Rohit also got to overturn a ‘caught on forward short leg’ decision off Lyon on the stroke of stumps.

Earlier in the morning, after electing to bat first, Australia survived a fiery opening spell from Mohammed Siraj to get a 50-run opening partnership. But India bounced back courtesy of Ashwin, Jadeja and Shami. Shami had Warner trapped lbw in the opening over.

But the left-handed batter immediately took a review and was saved as replays showed an inside edge. Khawaja, on the other hand, was off the mark with a nice glance on an overpitched delivery off Mohammed Siraj. He then made use of fuller balls from Shami by hitting two boundaries through the vacant space in the off-side.

Warner was kept on a tight leash by Ashwin bowling from round the wicket. Though he was using his feet to counter the ace off-spinner, Warner was still all at sea as Ashwin found turn, bounce and grip. But he managed to get off the mark on his 21st delivery.

While Warner punched Siraj through the gap at cover, Khawaja was delightful in dancing down the pitch to loft Ashwin over mid-off for six. Though Shami and Siraj asked tough questions of the openers, Khawaja and Warner managed to get a couple of boundaries as they raised a 50-run partnership for the opening wicket.

But shortly after that, Warner’s 44-ball vigil ended as Shami, coming in from round the wicket, got the left-handed batter forward and found some movement to draw the outside edge and keeper KS Bharat took the catch to his left.

Khawaja was proficient in sweeping as well as bringing the reverse-sweep and slog-sweep, taking boundaries off Ashwin and Jadeja. Marnus Labuschagne began with an eye-catchy leaning drive off Shami and then whipped off Ashwin as well as swept off Jadeja.

But in the 23rd over, Ashwin struck twice in three balls. Labuschagne was first to fall, as Ashwin got an off-break delivery to spin in and beat the right-hander’s inside edge to trap him lbw in front of the middle stump.

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He then closed the over by trapping Smith with a slider which the right-handed batter tried to meet by coming forward but gave a low catch behind to Bharat. Khawaja got to overturn an lbw decision off Jadeja and reached his fifty in the final over before lunch.

Post lunch, Travis Head began by slashing Shami through gully for a boundary. He was patient against Ashwin, and when the off-spinner flighted a fuller delivery in the 31st over, Head was quick to dance down the pitch to slam a six down the ground.

But in the very next over, Head flashed hard off Shami on seeing some width. But he perfectly nicked to second slip, who took the catch above his shoulder. Handscomb got going by punching and driving off Shami to collect back-to-back boundaries.

When Jadeja arrived, Handscomb was really quick in punching him through cover for a boundary, followed by cutting past point for the same result. Khawaja, on the other hand, brought out reverse sweep and ramp against Jadeja for back-to-back boundaries.

When Axar Patel pitched it slower down leg, Khawaja was quick to tickle through fine leg. He then brought out the reverse sweep again off Jadeja. But the left-arm spinner had the last laugh as Khawaja shaped himself for a reverse sweep, only to see K.L. Rahul diving full length to his right to take a stunning one-handed catch. It gave Jadeja his 250th Test wicket while Khawaja was left stunned and down on his knees.

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In the next over, Ashwin struck from round the wicket angle, fetching turn and bounce to take the shoulder edge of Alex Carey’s bat to slip. But Cummins decided to counterattack, slamming a brace of slog-sweep sixes off Ashwin over the deep mid-wicket stand. He would then glance and flick off Siraj for back-to-back boundaries to take Australia safely to tea.

The final session began with Australia reaching 200 in 59.4 overs. Peter Handscomb started off by using the pace from Axar Patel’s delivery to guide past slip for a boundary. When Jadeja pitched outside the off-stump, Handscomb was quick to go on backfoot and punch past the backward point for another boundary.

After Handscomb got his fifty in 110 balls, Jadeja broke the stubborn 59-run stand by trapping Cummins lbw, with the Australian skipper burning a review. Two balls later, Jadeja castled Todd Murphy through the gate.

Lyon was delightful in punching and driving off Shami. But the pacer had the last laugh, sending Lyon’s off-stump on a cartwheel ride. Jadeja had Handscomb caught on 67, but replays showed he overstepped and was called no-ball.

On the very next ball, Handscomb slog-swept Jadeja over deep square leg for a sumptuous boundary. In the next over, Shami brought Australia’s innings to a close by castling debutant Kuhnemann.

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Brief scores: Australia 263 in 78.4 overs (Usman Khawaja 81, Peter Handscomb 72 not out; Mohammed Shami 4-60, Ravichandran Ashwin 3-57) lead India 21/0 in 9 overs (Rohit Sharma 13 not out) by 242 runs

–IANS

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