The script had a predictable ring to it. As in the first Test, Australia batted by choice but India kept it in check. Again, the Australian innings did not last the day. Spinners R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja remained effective while Mohammed Shami scalped four.
If Australia battled hard to reach 263 — 86 runs more than what it managed in Nagpur — the early firmness of the pitch and fast outfield helped. In keeping with the average score of 277 at the Ferozeshah Kotla on the opening day of a Test, 284 runs came after India’s response of 21 without loss.
Pertinently, when India batted, quite a few deliveries squatted or shot through. Should the bounce become any lower and slower, even the Indian batters could struggle.
With Australia adding to its spin repertoire by bringing in debutant left-armer Matthew Kunhemann and batting all-rounder Travis Head — with his brand of off-spin — for Matt Renshaw and Scott Boland, India faces a spin-test.
The last time Australia went into a match with a lone specialist pacer — in skipper Pat Cummins — was against Bangladesh at Chattogram in September 2017. For the record, Australia won that Test.
On this day, opener Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb played their part to ensure Australia’s highest tally of the series. Their half-centuries and roles in three 50+ stands raised the total beyond 250.
Khawaja batted with assurance. He showed the willingness to take the battle to the Indians. Using the sweep — both conventional and reverse — the left-hander gathered runs fairly easily against the spinners. He was particularly severe on Jadeja whom he hit for four of his 12 boundaries. When facing Shami and Siraj, Khawaja cleverly used their pace to find the gaps.
However, when on 81, Khawaja reverse-swept Jadeja but found a diving K.L. Rahul bring off the catch of the day. Showing great anticipation, Rahul flung himself to his right and plucked the ball one-handed. The tumbling catch ended the opener’s bid to reach a well-deserved century.
Handscomb (72 not out) carried forward Khawaja’s good work. He added 59 with Khawaja, another 59 with Cummins and went on to hold the innings together with the late-order batters. Like Khawaja, Handscomb found Jadeja easy to deal with and hit him for five boundaries.