Travis Head’s resilience and Ravichandran Ashwin’s talent were the talking points of the day in a traditional day of Test cricket between India & Australia at the Adelaide Oval.
After the Indian off-spinner constantly drifted, dipped and turned the ball that undid Australia’s line-up, the Aussie batter, playing his first Test match on home soil, took the attack to the opposition, staying unbeaten on 61 at the end of Day 2. Australia still trail India by 59 runs.
Ashwin, who had been dropped in favor of Karn Sharma in the Adelaide game four years ago, showed his importance by bowling slow through the air and cramping up the players for room. His 22-over uninterrupted spell had three wickets, all of the left-handers, and he conceded only 38 runs.
The spell slowed down the proceedings for Australia in the day, who had bowled India out for 250, allowing them to add just one run to their overnight total. The Aussie batting unit scored at just 2.17 runs per over – their second-lowest run rate at home since 1990, till Head walked out to the crease. He showed immaculate judgment by leaving the balls outside off and cashing in on the loose deliveries. When Ashwin bowled a short outside off and wide off-break delivery to him, Head showed good footwork by going back deep into his crease and crunching it away for a four. A few overs later when Ishant Sharma overpitched a ball outside the off-stump, Head drove the delivery towards extra-cover and reached his 50 off 103 balls after he punched a ball to deep cover off the bowling of part-timer Murali Vijay.
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However, the tale was vastly different for the top-order batsman as they struggled against the sharp movement that Ishant Sharma was getting. Aaron Finch was out attempting a drive and Marcus Harris, the debutant, was unable to judge the line of an Ashwin delivery that drifted in late. Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb played loose shots after they had been put under pressure by the unrelenting lines that the Indians bowled.
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Ashwin then sent back Usman Khawaja with enough bounce and turn that forced the batter to nick it behind when he was on 28 – a struggling knock that came in 125 balls. Though Handscomb, who was playing his first Test in Australia since the Ashes game in Adelaide last year, looked at ease against the Indian spinner, going down the pitch against him, he was soon sent back by Jasprit Bumrah who set him up beautifully by bowling a number of short-balls and then surprising him with a full ball. After Tim Paine was out for 5, Australia were struggling at 127 for 6, but just like Cheteshwar Pujara helped India through the chaos on Day 1, Head too looks well set for an encore.