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India take early advantage in Melbourne Test against Australia

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Mohammed Siraj claimed two wickets on his debut for India on the first day of the Melbourne Test

India took early advantage on the first day of the second test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia, dismissing the hosts for a mere 195 and reaching 36/1 at stumps with opening batsmen and debutant Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease as they trailed by another 159 runs in the first innings. 

Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin ensured that Australia did not have too many runs on board as they helped India bundle Australia under 200, with debutant fast bowler Mohammed Siraj claiming two wickets. While Bumrah took an impressive 4/56 from his 16 overs, Ashwin bagged 3/35 in his 24 overs on a day wherein India made all the right moves after a disastrous final day in the opening Test at Adelaide. 

Towards the end of the day’s play, some positive batting from the right-handed Gill, who cracked 5 fours to reach 28 not out off 38 balls, while Pujara too got an early move on, reaching 7 off 23 balls with 1 four as India did not lose too many wickets to allow Australia any kind of moral advantage. 

The biggest moment in the day came when Ashwin got the world No 1 batsman Steve Smith caught at leg gully by Pujara for an eight-ball duck—his first in four years in Test cricket—which rattled the hosts who were looking to bat long and big after winning the toss. 

Smith has had a dry run so far in the series with scores of 1, 1* and the duck on the Boxing Day which ensured that he has had the worst ever start to a Test series ever since scale unprecedented heights as a batsman. Smith it’s not the only batsman to fall without scoring as the troubled opening batsmen Joe Burns had the same fate when Bumrah got him caught behind early in the innings. 

A fourth-wicket partnership for 86 runs between Marnus Labuschagne (48) and Travis Head (38) was the best that Australia had as far as batting on the first day, as the others just failed against the disciplined line and length of the Indian bowlers, which was backed extremely well with aggressive field settings by the stand-in India captain Ajinkya Rahane. 

The day also witnessed two controversial decisions going in favour of the Australians, the first of which came to Labuschagne when he got a leg-before decision off Ashwin overturned with the ball tracking suggesting that the ball was going over the wickets and not hitting the stumps as it appeared to the naked eye. 

Later on in the innings, Australia captain Tim Paine was given a clear lifeline by the third umpire Paul Wilson when his bat was on the line at the crease while India wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant broke the stumps. Several cricket experts and fans a point that Paine was out, but TV umpire Wilson had other ideas. 

Having earned an early advantage in the Boxing Day test, the Indian team will have to continue doing the hard work—this time with the bat against a world-class attack consisting Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. Early damage has already been cost by Starc who trapped Mayank Agarwal leg before for a duck to rock India who are desperate to shrug off pressure as far as batting is concerned.

The second day’s play could prove to be decisive as far as the direction of this match is concerned, since India will have to bat long and big to ensure that they build up at least a lead of 100 runs or so in the first innings, while the Australians would come hard at the visitors once again with the ball which is only 11 overs old and they would have had overnight’s rest to go full throttle. 

But the credit must go to the Indian team for having produced such a fine performance throughout the first day after the horror in Adelaide, which left them looking for some respite. The body language of the team was very positive, they did not seem to be getting any kind of baggage or pressure from the outcome in the first test and they looked to attack even though they are without some of the big names in Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and even Rohit Sharma. 

Brief scores: Australia 195 in 72.3 overs (Marnus Labuschagne 48, Travis Head 38; Jasprit Bumrah 4/56, Ravichandran Ashwin 3/35, Mohammed Siraj 2/40) lead India 36/1 in 11 overs (Shubman Gill 28*, Cheteshwar Pujara 7*; Mitchell Starc 1/23) by 159 runs.