Melbourne: An inspired Indian bowling unit, led by the menacing Jasprit Bumrah and the crafty Ravichandran Ashwin, steam-rolled Australia for a meagre 195 on a memorable opening day of the second Test here on Saturday.
New captain Ajinkya Rahane had a great day in office as he used his resources impressively with debutant Mohammed Siraj (2/40 in 15 overs) repaying the faith shown in him with wickets of Marnus Labuschagne (48) and Cameron Green (12) with the old ball.
However, the Test series is increasingly looking like Ashwin’s (3/35 in 24 overs) paradise as he once again made the opposition’s best batsman Steve Smith (0) look ordinary, exploiting the turn and bounce that the first day of the MCG track offered.
Bumrah (4/56 in 16 overs) was bowling as if it was business as usual, beating the bat and getting those breakthroughs just when it mattered on a pitch that had retained moisture. As it turned out, Rahane didn’t lose a bad toss.
The Indian team looked way more galvanised despite being without regular skipper Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave. Some great catches were taken and the intent was way more visible.
Rahane’s first punt was introducing Ashwin inside the first hour of play after Bumrah had forced Joe Burns (0) to nick one to Rishabh Pant. Ashwin, who varied the pace of his deliveries cleverly got some turn and bounce straightaway as he drew Matthew Wade into coming down the track and skying one for India’s best fielder Ravindra Jadeja to take a well-judged catch running backward.
After one that jumped and turned beating Smith and Pant, Ashwin kept the next a tad straighter and the former Australian skipper’s glance was pouched by Cheteshwar Pujara at leg gully.
All this while, Bumrah was beating the bat at the other hand. Interestingly, Rahane didn’t give the debutant a single over before lunch break as he knew that Siraj’s strength is generating pace and movement with the semi-new and old ball.
Siraj, initially bowled a bit short at Labuschagne and Travis Head (38 off 92 balls) as they added 86 runs for the fourth wicket. It was Bumrah, who provided the post-lunch breakthrough with a delivery that held its line and the left-hander’s thick edge was taken by Rahane at gully.
Siraj’s maiden wicket was a lucky one as the ball was drifting down the leg-side which Labuschagne tried to whip but Shubman Gill, stationed at backward square leg, snapped it inches off the ground.
However, the Hyderabad pacer’s second wicket was a much fuller ball with a hint of inward movement that caught Green plumb in-front. Skipper Tim Paine (13) couldn’t script a rescue act like Adelaide as a classical off-break saw him guide one straight into the hands of Hanuma Vihari at backward square leg.
Bumrah didn’t take much time after that as he and Ravindra Jadeja (1/15) polished off the tail in a jiffy.