Australia 156 for 4 (Khawaja 60, Jadeja 4-63) lead India 109 (Kuhnemann 5-16, Lyon 3-35) by 47 runs
On a pitch that was bare at both ends with a green patch in the middle, Rohit Sharma had no hesitation in batting after winning a toss for the first time in the series. However, with plenty of turn and variable bounce on offer, Australia’s spinners Kuhnemann and Nathan Lyon bundled India out for 109 in 33.2 overs.
Kuhnemann, playing only his second Test, took 5 for 16 while Lyon picked up three wickets. Todd Murphy took one and the remaining batter, No. 11 Mohammed Siraj, was run out.
Mitchell Starc, replacing Pat Cummins in the side, went wicketless but he could have dismissed Rohit twice in the opening over of the match. Starc found Rohit’s outside edge with the first ball of the Test but umpire Nitin Menon was unmoved; Australia decided against a review for caught behind, only for UltraEdge to show a spike. Three balls later, Starc beat Rohit’s inside edge and the ball brushed the back leg on its way to the wicketkeeper. Menon once again denied the appeal; Australia once again chose not to review and ball-tracking indicated the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps.
Rohit, though, failed to cash in on those reprieves. Australia introduced the left-arm spin of Kuhnemann in the sixth over and Rohit tried to take him on. He skipped down the track but got beaten by the turn, and Alex Carey completed the stumping.
In Kuhnemann’s second over, Shubman Gill pushed at one but failed to account for the turn and Steven Smith held a straightforward catch at slip. Cheteshwar Pujara was bowled off his fourth ball, a ripping offbreak that pitched on the edge of the green patch and shot through his back-foot defence.
Ravindra Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer fell to the slowness of the surface. Jadeja failed to keep a cut down against Lyon and Iyer chopped Kuhnemann onto his stumps. By the end of the first hour, India were reeling at 45 for 5.
Virat Kohli was arguably the only top-order India batter who looked comfortable in testing conditions. He was decisive in his footwork and defended with soft hands but Murphy had him lbw for 22 – India’s top score – while playing across his front pad.
KS Bharat tried to counterattack, slog-sweeping for a four and a six but he too was trapped lbw by Lyon for 17. At 82 for 7, India were in danger of falling short of 100 but Axar Patel and Umesh Yadav took them past that mark.
Given the assistance Australia’s spinners got, Rohit opened the bowling with R Ashwin and Jadeja, who pinned Travis Head lbw in his first over. Head had gone back and across to a length ball but failed to connect with the flick. Umpire Joel Wilson was unmoved but India successfully overturned the decision.
Jadeja had Marnus Labuschagne playing on in his second over but, unfortunately for India, he had overstepped.
In the next six overs, India burnt two reviews. On both occasions, Jadeja pinged Khawaja on the pads and the on-field verdict of not out proved to be the right one. So when Ashwin appealed for lbw against Labuschagne in the 11th over, Rohit was not prepared to gamble on using up the third review. If he had, Labuschagne would have been dismissed.
From there on, Ashwin and Jadeja struggled to hit the ideal length on this pitch, which was just fuller than good length. Ashwin erred on the shorter side almost right from the start, while Jadeja was too fast and too full. While batting remained challenging, Khawaja and Labuschagne capitalised during this period to add 96 for the second wicket. Khawaja did the bulk of the scoring with Labuschagne still looking circumspect.
Labuschagne was given another reprieve when Bharat failed to take a tough chance off Ashwin, the outside edge brushing his pads and flying over Kohli at first slip. He eventually fell for 31 when Jadeja bowled him with an arm ball.
Jadeja took two more wickets in the last half hour before stumps. Khawaja would be unhappy with his top-edged slog sweep to deep midwicket, while Smith would rue giving away yet another start. Bharat had dropped Smith too, off Jadeja, in an almost action replay of the Labuschagne let-off but latched onto the chance in the spinner’s next over. Those late wickets meant the door, although closing, was not completely shut on India as early as day one of the third Test.