Gutsy India bounce back to skittle Australia in second Test

Published December 26, 2020
India's Mohammed Siraj (C) celebrates dismissing Australia's Marnus Labuschagne on the first day of the second cricket Test match between Australia and India played at the MCG in Melbourne on December 26. — AFP
India's Mohammed Siraj (C) celebrates dismissing Australia's Marnus Labuschagne on the first day of the second cricket Test match between Australia and India played at the MCG in Melbourne on December 26. — AFP
Australia's Josh Hazlewood appeals unsuccessfully for an LBW during play on day one of the Boxing Day cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26. —  AP
Australia's Josh Hazlewood appeals unsuccessfully for an LBW during play on day one of the Boxing Day cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26. — AP

A resilient India bounced back from their embarrassing first Test exploits to bundle out Australia for just 195 and take a grip on the second Test in Melbourne after a riveting opening day on Saturday.

After their horror show in Adelaide last week, where they lost by eight wickets and were skittled for 36 in their second innings, the tourists were desperate to start well.

And they delivered after Australian captain Tim Paine won the toss and chose to bat in front of 27,615 socially-distanced fans, just short of the maximum allowed under coronavirus restrictions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

On a pitch offering turn and bounce, the hosts found it hard going against a high-quality attack led by Jasprit Bumrah (4-56), Ravi Ashwin (3-35) and the impressive Mohammed Siraj (2-40), making his debut for the injured Mohammed Shami.

Marnus Labuschagne top-scored with 48 but that was as good as it got.

It left Indian openers Shubman Gill, also on debut, and Mayank Agarwal needing to negotiate 40 minutes at the end of the day.

Agarwal was not up to the task, trapped lbw by a Mitchell Starc inswinger in the first over.

Gill was dropped on five by Labuschagne but otherwise looked comfortable, smacking five boundaries to reach 28 and help steer India to 36 for one at close with the experienced Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on seven.

“In the first session we were just trying to bowl in the rights areas,” said Bumrah, who praised Siraj for “bowling his heart out”.

He added that the plan on Sunday was for the batsmen to be positive, rather than conservative. “We're just looking to control the controllables, not being reckless but being confident.”

With Ajinkya Rahane captaining the side in place of Virat Kohli, who has returned home for the birth of his first child, India got off to a perfect start, getting Burns (0), Matthew Wade (30) and Smith (0) before lunch.

It left Australia in trouble but Labuschagne rode his luck, surviving two review decisions, to lead a recovery, putting on 86 with Travis Head (38).

Head had a nervous start but grew in confidence before Bumrah enticed an edge which carried to Rahane at gully, sparking a collapse.

Labuschagne looked set for a ninth half-century but a brilliant catch by Gill ended his vigil and handed Siraj his first Test wicket.

Allrounder Cameron Green ground out 12 before he too fell to Siraj, then an excellent catch by Hanuma Vihari off Ashwin accounted for Paine (13).

Nathan Lyon hit a cameo 20 but Australia's tail otherwise failed to wag.

Still in game

“We had probably three innocuous dismissals that we probably didn't need to, frustrating dismissals and they were guys who were set and in,” said Labuschagne.

“Just need to be better there [...] that whoever gets in on the day, whether myself or anyone else in the top order, we make sure we get big scores.”

But he added: “I think we're (still) in the game.”

With David Warner still injured, the hosts went into the clash unchanged, with Burns opening alongside Wade. Burns hit an unbeaten 51 in Adelaide to relieve some pressure after a long lean spell, but his performance on Saturday will once more raise questions over his place in the team.

He looked tentative against Bumrah and got a nick to a delivery he should have left.

At the other end, Wade had an escape on four but started finding the gaps before attempting a big hit off Ashwin, which proved his downfall for 30.

Ravindra Jadeja took the catch, but only just with Gill also underneath it. The pair collided but Jadeja managed to hang on.

Ashwin then claimed the crucial scalp of Smith, who was undone by an off-break with Pujara holding a catch at slip after the world's top batsman faced just eight balls.

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