MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia is talking tough despite suffering a humiliating batting collapse on its marquee day of the cricket summer, crashing to a total of 195 on Saturday in the Boxing Day test match against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Leading the four-test cricket series 1-0 , the home side chose to bat first in sunny conditions. Skipper Tim Paine’s men lasted only 72.3 overs.
India scored 36-1 in reply.
On a first-day pitch which surprisingly offered assistance to seamers, swing bowlers and the slow bowlers, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin took 3-35 and pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah claimed 4-56 as Australia lost 7-71.
India showed on Saturday it was determined to rebound strongly from a disastrous eight-wicket loss in the first test in Adelaide, where India was bowled out for its lowest test score of 36.
Following a shaky start on Saturday which included the loss of three wickets for 38 runs, Australia’s hopes of posting a competitive first-innings total of at least 300 rested with Travis Head (38) and Marnus Labuschagne (48). They added 86 for the fourth wicket before both departed in the second session.
Earlier, Bumrah removed opener Joe Burns caught behind for a duck.
Ashwin claimed two crucial breakthroughs before lunch, dismissing Matthew Wade, who played a wild slog and was caught at mid-on for 30, and Steve Smith, who was caught at leg slip for a duck.
Importantly, India has continued its dominance of test cricket’s top-ranked batsman Smith, who has scored 1, 1 not out, and 0 in the series.
Bumrah claimed the first breakthrough after lunch when Head was caught at gully.
Labuschagne followed 10 runs later at 134-5, after offering a catch to backward square as debutant Mohammed Siraj grabbed his first test wicket.
Siraj (2-40) trapped Cameron Green LBW for 12 after tea. Paine became Ashwin’s third victim in the following over.
In an exciting opening to India’s innings, opener Mayank Agarwal was out LBW to Starc for a duck.
India’s 21-year-old debutant Shubman Gill, who was dropped at third slip by Labuschagne on four off the bowling of Pat Cummins, scored an unbeaten 28 including five boundaries.
In another blow for Australia, Wade limped off late in the day’s play holding his ankle following a fielding mishap.
Labuschagne, who was unable to provide any update on Wade’s fitness, refused to concede Australia was in trouble after failing to score 200.
“We’re in the game. We certainly showed that last game (by bowling India out for 36),” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how many (runs) you have, we’re in the game. Both teams have very good bowling lineups.”
The touring side was not entirely happy with a controversial decision to rule Paine not out following an appeal for a run out with the batsman on six in the 55th over. It was an extremely close call, with some replays suggesting the bat was on the line.
“It’s unfortunate the umpires are not allowed to able to travel (because of COVID-19),” Bumrah said. “If a decision doesn’t go our way, we have to move forward.”
Bumrah praised India’s bowling attack, which included debutant Siraj’s two-wicket haul and spinner Ashwin’s 3-35 off 24 overs.
Ashwin was brought on as the first-change bowler after just 10 overs.
Bumrah said Ashwin was able to extract turn from the pitch in the opening session.
“That was because of the moisture,” Bumrah said. “Ash bowled brilliantly. That was our main goal today, to help each other.”
India included spinner Ravindra Jadeja, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, and debutants Gill and Siraj, who replaced injured pace bowler Mohammed Shami.
Captain Virat Kohli has returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Ajinkya Rahane will be India’s stand-in skipper for the rest of the series.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, up to 30,000 spectators, which is only one-third of the stadium’s capacity, was allowed to attend a day’s play. Saturday’s attendance figure was 27,615.
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