Cricket-India land first blows on day one of Boxing Day test

Ian Ransom
·3-min read

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - India proved there is life without captain Virat Kohli as they bowled Australia out for 195 then weathered a fierce pace assault in the late afternoon to dominate the opening day of the second test in Melbourne.

India were 36 for one at stumps, with debutant Shubman Gill 28 not out and Cheteshwar Pujara on seven after the loss of opener Mayank Argarwal for a duck.

With soon-to-be-dad Kohli having returned home after the calamitous defeat in Adelaide, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane called on his bowlers to respond and they duly delivered on a glorious day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

After Australia won the toss and elected to bat, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah grabbed four wickets and seamer Mohammed Siraj took two on an emotional test debut little more than a month after the death of his father.

With the wounds still raw from India's humiliating dismissal for 36 at Adelaide Oval, their lowest innings total in tests, the focus shifted quickly to their batsmen and how they would fare against Australia's fired-up pace attack.

The pressure proved too much for Argarwal, who was out lbw on the sixth ball of the innings after a withering opening salvo from paceman Mitchell Starc.

Gill, replacing the dropped Prithvi Shaw, was lucky not to follow him, getting a reprieve on four when Marnus Labuschagne grassed a regulation catch in the slips off the bowling of Pat Cummins.

The crowd of 27,615 was under the "COVID-safe" cap of 30,000 but the collective groan triggered by the drop might have been heard in Melbourne's outer suburbs.

Gill rallied superbly from the scare to guide India to stumps and complete a rousing day for the rebooted tourists, who flew out of the blocks in the morning with four changes to their 11 from Adelaide.

"We're not looking too far ahead," Bumrah told reporters. "We don’t want to be conservative in our mindset.

"Not being reckless but being confident ... that is the motive going forward now."

PRIZED WICKET

Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (3-35) did early damage with two wickets including that of Australia's star batsman Steve Smith for a duck.

Having dismissed him for one in Adelaide, Ashwin condemned Smith to his first duck since 2016 when he was out lbw by Keshav Maharaj in defeat to South Africa in Perth.

Reeling at 65 for three at lunch, Australia rallied with an 86-run partnership between Labuschagne and Travis Head, but neither could go on with it.

Bumrah had Head caught in the gully by Rahane for 38 before Siraj, held back until after lunch, savoured his first test wicket when Labuschagne was pouched for 48 by Gill at backward square leg.

There was a moment of controversy with Tim Paine surviving a line-ball run out decision after the tea-break, but the Australia skipper was unable to make India pay, being caught in close off the bowling of Ashwin for 13.

Siraj had young all-rounder Cameron Green out lbw for 12 before Bumrah and recalled all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja combined to wrap up the tail after some lusty slogging from Nathan Lyon (20).

With makeshift opener Matthew Wade squandering a start after being caught for 30 trying to slog Ashwin, Labuschagne praised India's attack but said Australia's batsmen had wasted chances.

"I think we had probably three innocuous dismissals," he told reporters.

"I think we’re in the game, I think we certainly showed in the last game it doesn’t matter how many (runs) you have."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)