Josh Hazlewood dismissed Mohammed Shami (6) on the very first delivery of the day as India were rolled over for 250 - which was largely possible because of Cheteshwar Pujara's fighting 123 on the first day of the match. In reply, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah had Australia six down for 127 before Travis Head pulled them out of the bog.
With not much on the board, India needed an early wicket and they got one in the very first over, courtesy Ishant. The right-arm fast bowler hit the right line and length and almost caught Aaron Finch right in front of the stumps on the second delivery. The appeal enough to unsettle Finch, who went for a flashy drive in the very next ball ended up dragging it back to the stumps.
Debutant Marcus Harris looked unfazed by Finch's departure and started focusing on building the innings along with No. 3 batsman Usman Khawaja. The two looked in no hurry and kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and twos. Indian bowlers, however, didn't lose their focus and kept bowling in right areas. Despite being hit for a couple of boundaries, Ashwin kept teasing both the batsmen and finally reaped rewards in the 22nd over when Harris fell prey to the drifter, inside edging it onto the pads as the ball lobbed straight to Murali Vijay at silly point.
The surface was still good for batting and it was a great opportunity for Shaun Marsh to spend some time in the middle and return to the form, which unfortunately didn't happen. Marsh was on two when he went for an expansive drive off Ashwin's bowling, only to end up inside edging it back to the timbers. It was a floated half-volley outside off and Marsh's wicket was nothing short of a gift for the visiting side. This was Marsh's sixth consecutive single-digit score in this format. The last time an Australian batsman in the top five made six consecutive single-figure scores was George Bonnor in 1888. Just to put things in perspective, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood have scored more runs than Marsh in their last 10 innings.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, Khawaja showed tremendous patience and neglected the Ashwin-threat with a very sedate approach. The pressure was on the home team considering they were finding it difficult to churn runs. Coming in at No. 5, Peter Handscomb commenced tentatively but also played a couple of very good looking shots towards both sides of the wicket.
India required something special to get rid of Khawaja and that's what they got from Ashwin. The offspinner managed to get a good rip on one of his deliveries that turned enough to kiss Khawaja's glove before settling in Rishabh Pant's hands. Khawaja stayed there for 125 balls but could only manage 28 runs. Handscomb, who scored 34, too slowed down a bit after Khawaja's dismissal, before becoming Bumrah's first victim. Things went bad from worse for the hosts when skipper Tim Paine was caught behind off Ishant's bowling for five runs. This was his 50th Test wicket against Australia.
That's when Head began to open up and crafted a couple of eye-pleasing shots through the off side. The local boy found ample support from Pat Cummins who dug in his heels to keep the one side intact, allowing Head to do most of the scoring. In the process, Head went past the 50-run mark for the second time in his career.
India have been guilty of not finishing off the tail-enders and it looked like the duo would take the game away from India. With new ball due, Kohli tried Vijay for few over before once again turning to Bumrah. The right-arm pacer got one to nip back in from just outside off and pinned Cummins right in front of the stumps for 10. However, the wicket came only after the two had added 50 runs for the seventh wicket.
Starc didn't look comfortable but made sure he was there with Head till the end of day's play. Australia will hope Head carries on Day 3 and accumulate as many runs as possible considering it's not going to be easy to bat in the second innings.
First Published: December 8, 2018, 2:00 AM IST