In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin – both failed to pass the fitness test ahead of the game – the Indian bowling attack for the last and final Test against Australia consisted of Mohammad Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan and Washington Sundar (Siraj, having played 2 Tests, was the senior most member). The fact that India lost Saini to groin injury mid way through the day did not help the visiting team, but they will be pleased with their performance at Australia’s fortress The Gabba. After losing another important toss, the Indian bowlers got the early wicket of David Warner, before Marnus Labuschagne threatened to take the game away with his fifth Test ton.
On one of the best batting tracks in the series thus far, the Australians suffered early blows as Warner and then Marcus Harris were sent back in quick succession. The left hander outside edged a Siraj delivery to Rohit Sharma at second slip, while Harris, coming in for injured Will Pucovski, played a swinging delivery only to miscue it to square leg. Shardul Thakur picked up the wicket, but was expensive for the rest of the day and was unable to raise his game when Saini walked away, leaving the fast bowling onus on Siraj and Natarajan.
The fall of the openers got Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith to the crease, and they seemed to run away with the game in their sedate partnership of 60 runs. The latter, in particular, looked fluent and all set for a big score as he drove and played his shots with ease. However, he fell to Washington Sundar – yet another off spinner – after getting a start, but Labuschagne, at the other end, held his end up and made full use of the dropped catches.
He went on to get his second ton of the series, but not without luckily surviving before. He was dropped on 37 by Ajinkya Rahane at gully, who was surprised by the pace and bounce on the delivery, but recovered soon after to grasp onto his second life. He stitched together 380 runs with Matthew Wade, who walked in at number three, as the duo drove and pulled the inexperienced bowling attack. Tim Paine and Cameron Green continued piling on the runs, but the Indians will be pleased with their performance. India also dropped Green during the end of day’s play as Thakur failed to latch onto a chance off his own bowling.
Left-arm fast bowler T Natarajan got Labuschagne and Wade off short deliveries in successive overs that he bowled. Initially selected as a net bowler, along with Sundar, Natarajan impressed with his line and lengths, which had made him a force to reckon with in the recent Indian Premier League. The day could have gone better for the visiting team had they held onto their chances, but they will be pleased with the 5 wickets on a flat deck after none of their first-choice bowlers were available. Their immediate aim will be to ensure Australia do not cross the 350-run mark. The first hour of play on Day 2, thus, will be of utmost importance.
Brief Scores: Australia 274/5 (Labuschagne 108, Wade 45; Natarajan 2-63, Siraj 1-60) vs India