For Team India, the number 36 has some deep scars attached to it. However, they will be relatively happy to finish with 36/1 at the end of the first day’s play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the Boxing Day Test. The iconic coliseum witnessed a gripping Day One of the second Test with Indian bowlers keeping the side on top.
Team India trail Australia by 159 runs, with debutant Shubman Gill (28*) and Cheteshwar Pujara (7*) at the crease. Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, and debutant Mohammad Siraj made batting uncomfortable for the hosts as Australia could score only 195 after winning the toss.
This is the second consecutive time that Australia have failed to breach the 200-mark in Tests.
Shubman Gill shows promise
Batting at the end moments of the day is a thankless job, and Team India's openers were off to some discomfort right away. Mitchell Starc got the ball to shape in at the start and struck early again, dismissing opener Mayank Agarwal for a nought.
Debutant Gill struggled against his Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) teammate Pat Cummins, who kept beating the opener’s edge and troubled him with extra bounce. Dropped at four by Marnus Labuschagne at slip, Gill made it count by exhibiting a wide range of strokes to put Team India in the front seat.
Bowlers put Team India on top
Considering the fact that Team India missed their two frontline bowlers and regular captain, they displayed great character and had an excellent day with the ball. Team India was well captained by Ajinkya Rahane, who attacked the opposition and made aggressive bowling changes.
Bumrah began with bowling probing lengths and dismissed Joe Burns for a duck in the fifth over. Rahane pulled off a surprise by introducing Ashwin as the first change. Matthew Wade, who showed some urgency, perished trying to slog. Ravindra Jadeja and Gill almost collided, but the former got hold of the ball.
Then came the biggest moment in the day. Smith fell to Ashwin for a duck, this time flicking the ball to Pujara at leg-slip. With two runs in three innings, the duck bagged by Smith is his first in over four years.
Before this innings, Smith had four centuries and three fifties in the seven Tests he had played at the MCG.
Impressive debut for Mohammad Siraj
Replacing Mohammed Shami, Siraj only started after the lunch break. Team India may have missed a trick there by not beginning with Bumrah and letting Labuschagne and Travis Head settle down. They added 88 runs for the fourth wicket before Bumrah set up Head with some short-pitched balls and then got him to edge it to the slip.
Labuschagne soon perished to Siraj, handing him his first wicket. Trying to run the ball towards fine-leg, the batsman found the other debutant Gill at backward square-leg.
The day also saw a controversial moment after Tim Paine was adjudged not out by third umpire Paul Wilson to what seemed like a straightforward run out.
Siraj benefitted from the probing line and length, trapping Cameron Green leg before.
Barring Nathan Lyon’s counterattacking 20, the Australian tail did not bother their Team India counterparts as they just managed 40 for the last four wickets.
Earlier, during the tea break, Australian legend Dean Jones was paid a moving tribute at his home ground.
Australia 195 (Marnus Labuschagne 48, Travis Head 38; Jasprit Bumrah 4 for 56, Ravichandran Ashwin 3 for 35, Mohammad Siraj 2 for 40) lead India 36 for 1 (Shubman Gill 28*; Mitchell Starc 1 for 14) by 159 runsPublished 26 Dec 2020, 19:45 IST