Team India had a memorable start to the much-coveted Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and look in a dominant spot at the end of the first day’s play.
Batting first, Australia could muster only 195 runs with Marnus Labuschagne (48) being the highest run-getter in the Australian innings, followed by Travis Head (38).
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Among the Indian bowlers, pacer Jasprit Bumrah shone with figures of 4/56 as he tore through the Aussie tail-enders. Debutant Mohammed Siraj (2/40 got the much-desired wicket of Labuschagne and Cameron Green. In the spin department, Ravichandran Ashwin continued his form from the Adelaide Test and grabbed 3/35 comprising the crucial wickets of Matthew Wade (30), Steve Smith (0) and skipper Tim Paine (13). Ravindra Jadeja grabbed a solitary wicket to his name.
India lost the early wicket of Mayank Agarwal (0) on a Mitchell Starc’s delivery, but Shubman Gill’s counter-attacking 28* off 38 comprising 5 fours alongside Cheteshwar Pujara (7*) has brought the momentum back in the tourists’ favor who finished the day on 36/1.
Steve Smith, who currently ranks as the number one batsman in ICC Test rankings hasn’t fired so far in the series. Although he has daunting numbers against India in the longest format of the game, Ashwin has been successful in the ongoing edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in keeping him off the scoring limits.
Speaking on the same, former Australian cricketer Michael Hussey feels that Ajinkya Rahane-led side has done a brilliant job in setting off Steve Smith from registering a big total. He further pointed out that Smith too is a human and can mistakes.
Team India knows Steve Smith’s strength: Michael Hussey
“There’s definitely been a shift from this Indian team. In the past, because Steve Smith walks across the crease so much, teams have bowled wide to him, and with that, they set a more off-side field and hope he is going to hit the ball through there. But I think this Indian team has gone the other way,” Hussey told Fox Sports.
Hussey, who played a total of 14 Tests against India and aggregated 1078 runs averaging 49.00 with 3 hundreds and 4 fifties, pointed out the visitors’ tactic against Steve Smith.
“They know his strength is off the pads, so they have put fielders there to block up the runs but then bowled straight at the stumps, so he just has to miss one or edge one. He is human and can get something wrong, and unfortunately, it has worked,” added the cricketer turned commentator.
The 45-year-old Australian veteran then stated how targeting the stumps to dismiss a player of Smith’s caliber is a good tactic considering it makes him prone to LBW and could get him caught while trying to flick on the leg-side.
“I think it is a good tactic because if he is taking all of his weight across the crease, something you can fall over a little bit too much and means you are prone to LBW or your head is not in the line with the ball, and you can flick one on the leg side,” Hussey added.