Mohammed Shami’s clever variations with the semi-new and old ball were beautifully complemented by the spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin as India restricted Australia to 263 on the opening day of the second Test in New Delhi on February 17, 2023.
Opener Usman Khawaja (81, 125 balls) made amends for a horrendous first-Test outing at Nagpur with an attractive knock while Peter Handscomb (72 not out, 142 balls) played with determination at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Friday, but their efforts weren’t enough as the visitors were all out in 78.4 overs.
At stumps, India were 21 for no loss with Rohit Sharma (13 batting) and KL Rahul (4 batting) at the crease.
Shami’s (14.4-4-60-4) repertoire of deliveries was on full display as he struck with the new, semi-new and old ball, while Ashwin (21-4-57-3) and Jadeja (21-2-68-3) came up with breakthroughs just when the opposition seemed to be gaining foothold as India took the opening day’s honours.
The highlight on Friday was KL Rahul’s brilliant catch at point off a powerful reverse sweep by Khawaja. That athletic effort not just broke the 59-run sixth-wicket partnership between Khawaja and Handscomb and also halted Australia’s charge.
The pitch was a typical slow turner but had better carry than the Nagpur wicket and and it did help Khawaja, as he was able to hit through the line during his knock that had 12 fours and a six.
Shami must be given credit for the way he bowled after Rohit Sharma pressed him from the other end in the first session.
Mohammed Siraj, despite going wicketless, deserves credit for softening up David Warner, who struggled during his 50-run stand with Khawaja. Two short balls — one hitting the Australian opener on the elbow and the other flush on the helmet — did unnerve the opener.
Shami then came wide off the crease and angled one into Warner. The line was immaculate with a fuller length and Warner could only jab at it.
Ashwin then came into the act as Australia, from a comfortable 94/1, lost Marnus Labuschagne (18) and Steve Smith (0) in the space of two deliveries.
Labuschagne got an off-break that turned quite a bit and found him plumb in front, while Smith edged one to Kona Bharat, whose amazing reflexes and good technique paid rich dividends.
In the post-lunch session, Shami bowled another probing spell getting the better of Travis Head, who came in for Matt Renshaw for the second Test. Shami came closer to the stumps and bowled one which wasn’t at a drivable length and Head’s thick outside edge flew to Rahul, who took a nice catch wide of second slip.
Once Alex Carey was accounted for by Ashwin, Khawaja and Handscomb forged a nice partnership. The pitch wasn’t difficult to bat on and the duo comfortably negotiated the Indian spinners between lunch and tea.
In fact, Handscomb looked quite assured as he took wide front-foot strides to negate the slow turn and occasionally went on the back-foot to punch the spinners on the off side. He hit nine boundaries and, perhaps, played the best knock in three completed Australian innings in the series so far.
But Australia’s dream of a big stand lay shattered when Khawaja went for an ambitious reverse sweep off Jadeja and Rahul plucked a one-handed stunner out of thin air.
Skipper Pat Cummins (33) decided to play a counter-attacking game as Handscomb accumulated runs at the other end.
At 227 for 6, it seemed that Australia would score 300-plus in the first essay, which would have been a decent total by any standards. But Jadeja got into action and increased the pace of his deliveries, gauging the slowness of the track.
The result was a couple of quick wickets of Cummins and Todd Murphy (0) before Shami used the good old reverse swing to clean up the tail.
Nathan Lyon was cleaned up by one that tailed in on the side of the shine while debutant Matt Kuhnemann had his leg stump pegged back.
Australia 1st Innings: David Warner c Srikar Bharat b Shami 15 Usman Khawaja c Rahul b Ravindra Jadeja 81 Marnus Labuschagne lbw b Ashwin 18 Steven Smith c Srikar Bharat b Ashwin 0 Travis Head c Rahul b Shami 12 Peter Handscomb batting 72 Alex Carey c Kohli b Ashwin 0 Pat Cummins lbw b Ravindra Jadeja 33 Todd Murphy b Ravindra Jadeja 0 Nathan Lyon b Shami 10 Matthew Kuhnemann b Shami 6 Extras: (b-13, lb-1, nb-2) 16
Total: 263 all out in 78.4 overs
Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-91, 3-91, 4-108, 5-167, 6-168, 7-227, 8-227, 9-246
Indian bowling: Mohammed Shami 14.4-4-60-4, Mohammed Siraj 10-2-30-0, Ravichandran Ashwin 21-4-57-3, Ravindra Jadeja 21-2-68-3, Axar Patel 12-23-4.
India 1st Innings: Rohit Sharma not out 13 KL Rahul not out 4 Extras: (B-4) 4
Total: (For no loss in 9 overs) 21
Australia bowling: Pat Cummins 3-1-7-0, Matthew Kuhnemann 4-1-6-0, Nathan Lyon 2-0-4-0.