Stumps – Australia 166-2
Smith and Labuschagne see out the remainder of the session to steer Australia into a dominant position. Their partnership is now worth 60, with plenty more likely to come on a second day that will start early owing to the time lost to rain today.
55th over: Australia 166-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 31) Rahane turns to Saini for the last over of the day. What has Jadeja done wrong? Bumrah, anyone? Interesting road to go down but we shall see. Around the wicket to Smith, the debutant starts with two bouncers down the leg side – with leg-side catchers in place – and then angles one in across the body. Smith scampers through for a single, leaving Labuschagne to face the final three balls of the day. No problems for Marnus and that is stumps.
54th over: Australia 165-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 30) Wow. Plenty of turn and bite all of a sudden for Ashwin. It takes Smith completely by surprise and he aborts any attempt at a shot. Lucky, could easily have taken the glove. A single from the over, the penultimate of the day.
53rd over: Australia 164-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 29) Labuschagne turns Jadeja square for one, the first run the left-armer has conceded into his third over. He then gets a bit of bounce to catch Smith between two minds before dropping one in a tad too short and leaking a single through midwicket.
52nd over: Australia 162-2 (Labuschagne 66, Smith 28) Australia, or more specifically the incumbent pair, have gone after Ashwin today and Labuschagne has the chance to supplement gains but fails to score with an off-drive and an attempted sweep. He does manage a single forward of square, the only score in the over.
51st over: Australia 161-2 (Labuschagne 65, Smith 28) Jadeja again, short-leg in place for Smith. Jadeja is as Jadeja does, fairly well racing through his over. Smith barely has time to blink and he even misses out on a short one outside off-stump as another maiden results.
50th over: Australia 161-2 (Labuschagne 65, Smith 28) Ashwin continues with India, perhaps, set to see out the day with spin from both ends. Smith fends one – nay, pads one – into the hands of short-leg and India appeal. The decision is not out, and comfortably so. The ball was nowhere near the bat and India think better of going for a review. They would’ve burned it. Two singles from the over.
49th over: Australia 159-2 (Labuschagne 64, Smith 27) Jadeja does finally get a go with the ball. And it’s like he’s been released from a strait-jacket as he prances and speeds through his first over of the match, a maiden to Smith.
48th over: Australia 159-2 (Labuschagne 64, Smith 27) Labuschagne does his best Steve Smith impression, dancing down the pitch to Ashwin and driving high down the ground for four. A metre or two farther and it would’ve been six. The shot brings up the fifty partnership for Australia’s third wicket, scored from just 81 balls. In the context of the series, the match even, that’s lightning quick.
47th over: Australia 155-2 (Labuschagne 60, Smith 27) Siraj continues and it’s hard work on a pitch that’s slowing by the minute. A Labuschagne single is as eventful as the over gets. Eight overs remaining today. What will Rahane do? Bumrah, surely. Jadeja, maybe?
46th over: Australia 154-2 (Labuschagne 59, Smith 27) Smith continues to use his feet to the turning ball, but this time Ashwin beats him for flight and drift as Smith tries to hit through midwicket but misses as the ball clatters onto his pads and to safety. Two singles from the over, including one from a misfield on the last ball, in a very good offering from Ashwin.
45th over: Australia 152-2 (Labuschagne 58, Smith 26) Peach of a delivery from Siraj as Labuschagne is late on the shot, the ball sneaking past the inside edge and just missing off-stump. Really, really nice bowling on a pitch that isn’t doing much to help the seamers. Maiden over.
44th over: Australia 152-2 (Labuschagne 58, Smith 26) Ashwin continues with these two now scoring almost at will. The field is now back a bit, though with catchers still in place on the leg side, and singles flow easily as the over goes for four runs.
Labuschagne fifty off 108 balls!
43rd over: Australia 148-2 (Labuschagne 56, Smith 24) Siraj returns to the attack and almost makes an immediate impact as Labuschagne plants his feet and inside-edges onto his pads. Entirely unconvincing from Marnus but he soon reverts to type, cover-driving for four to register his ninth Test half-century and then celebrating with another boundary, this time driven past mid-on. Twelve runs from Siraj’s 12th over. His first 11 went for just 33 combined. Time for drinks.
42nd over: Australia 136-2 (Labuschagne 44, Smith 24) Very few batsmen in the world use their feet better to the turning ball than Steve Smith and this boundary is pure Smith as he waltzes down the pitch and carts Ashwin flat over mid-on. Shot of the day? Perhaps not, but stunning all the same. Twenty-four off 30 balls, Smith is going at near ODI speed.
41st over: Australia 132-2 (Labuschagne 44, Smith 20) Saini, over the wicket, continues bowling to his leg-side field but Smith maintains his composure and discipline. Just two from the over but Australia’s run-rate is now three-and-a-bit, as good as it’s been this series. As it should be – this looks a better batting deck than both Adelaide and Melbourne.
40th over: Australia 130-2 (Labuschagne 43, Smith 19) Rahane turns to the spin of Ashwin as Bumrah’s probing spell comes to an end. And it’s a very good over until Smith moves forward, catches the ball on the half-volley and flicks the ball through midwicket for four. Very good shot. Smith looks on.
39th over: Australia 125-2 (Labuschagne 42, Smith 15) Saini does away with the full stuff and his control is better, conceding just two runs in the over. Sixteen overs left in the day. It’s only day one, but a crucial period awaits.
38th over: Australia 123-2 (Labuschagne 41, Smith 14) Bumrah continues to keep things tight, with a couple of singles the only scores in the over.
37th over: Australia 121-2 (Labuschagne 40, Smith 13) Glorious, glorious shot from Smith, who gets in line with the pitch of a decent enough, if slightly full, delivery, and driving Saini right out of the screws for four down the ground. Another boundary soon follows but it was a half-chance for India as Smith turns Saini uppishly backward of square and just evades the diving fielder at leg gully.
36th over: Australia 112-2 (Labuschagne 39, Smith 5) Bumrah to Smith. The former skipper is all over the crease with his manic footwork. Bumrah zeroes in on Smith’s off-stump before dropping in a short one and then overpitching, fairly well pleading with Smith to smack him down the ground for four. A man under some pressure to score runs, Smith will enjoy that.
WICKET! Pucovski lbw b Saini 62 (Australia 106-2)
35th over: Australia 108-2 (Labuschagne 39, Smith 1)
A single brings up the century partnership but next ball Pucovski is gone, shuffling across his crease to a full inswinger and being trapped plumb in front by Saini. No need to review that one. A great response by the India debutant to get rid of the Australia debutant, having been taken for 15 runs in his first two overs. Pucovski has shown a tendency to get across his crease and that is indeed how he perishes. A fine debut knock, nevertheless. Dropped twice, yes, but 62 first go is a success no matter which way you slice it.
34th over: Australia 105-1 (Pucovski 62, Labuschagne 38) Three more for Labuschagne, who pushes hard at Bumrah and beats Ashwin at mid-on. Pucovski is then suckered into a big hook shot and he picks up two as the ball lands safely at deep backward square. Frankly, that could’ve gone anywhere.
33rd over: Australia 100-1 (Pucovski 60, Labuschagne 35) Saini again, having had plenty of time at tea to ponder his debut over that went for nine runs. His first ball is a bit too short and a bit too wide, inviting Pucovski to punch through the covers for two. Saini then corrects his length, in fact overcorrects, and it’s full enough for Pucovski to drive down the ground for three. Nothing flash or fancy about it; just a good, uncomplicated cricket shot. We might have one here. A single then takes Australia into triple figures.
Fifteen runs from Saini’s first two overs in Test cricket. Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.
32nd over: Australia 94-1 (Pucovski 55, Labuschagne 34) Bumrah returns to the attack, unimpeded by his brush with the greasy outfield in the middle session. Pucovski resumes the scoring with a single through the covers. Labuschagne then lets a couple go through to the keeper, extravagantly of course.
It has been raining. A little bit. The covers were on. Now they’re off. Slight delay.
Tea – Australia 93-1
An excellent session for Australia but not one without drama. Pucovski was dropped twice, both times by Pant, before going on to register a half-century on debut in the last over before the game’s second interval. After a rain-interrupted first session that cost Warner his wicket and saw just 7.1 overs bowled, Pucovski and Labuschagne go to tea having put on 87 unbroken runs for the second wicket.
Of the drama, there will be more to be written and said about Pucovski’s second life.
Pucovski half-century off 97 balls!
31st over: Australia 93-1 (Pucovski 54, Labuschagne 34) Pucovski, on debut, faces Saini, on debut. The batsman punches Saini’s first ball through the covers for four before pulling through midwicket for four more, bringing up his half-century at the very first time of asking. It hasn’t been chanceless but it’s still a debut fifty. Well done, Will. Saini’s first over in Test cricket goes for nine runs. And that is tea.
30th over: Australia 84-1 (Pucovski 45, Labuschagne 34) Ashwin continues but around the wicket now. Pucovski picks up three through the point region before Labuschagne sees his partner and raises him with a boundary past the same part of the ground. The flow of runs sees Ashwin revert to over the wicket, the leg-slip fielder vacates to strengthen the off-side … and Labuschagne sweeps for two.
29th over: Australia 75-1 (Pucovski 42, Labuschagne 28) Confusion reigns as Bumrah stumbles and slips in the damp outfield, compelling Pucovski to chance another run. But Labuschagne doesn’t want any part of it and sends his partner back to the striker’s end. India might well have been on for a run-out but Pucovski scrambles over his crease just in time. But a direct hit would have made it interesting. Bumrah looks to be fine after his tumble.
Here’s Pant’s second, far more controversial, dropped catch to hand Pucovski another reprieve.
28th over: Australia 68-1 (Pucovski 35, Labuschagne 28) Far too short from Ashwin and Labuschagne, who’s been stuck in a rut these past few overs, breaks the shackles with a boundary through the covers. And just like London buses, another four follows next ball backward of square that sees the batsmen scamper through for an all-run four before the ball trickles to a halt.
27th over: Australia 59-1 (Pucovski 34, Labuschagne 20) Excellent again from Siraj, who looks to be growing into this series, and Test cricket, nicely. Good pace to Labuschagne and that leg-side line is going nowhere. Back to the second Pucovski drop, I wonder if Pant had any idea the ball was grounded before he gained possession of it. The answer, I guess, would have to be: no.
25th over: Australia 56-1 (Pucovski 32, Labuschagne 19) Siraj continues his lively spell. A single brings up the fifty partnership between these two, at a run-rate of a tick over two per over. That might be uneventful on face value but there’s no shortage of drama as Pucovski survives another DROPPED CATCH!
Pucovski tries to hook a short ball but does no more than spoon the ball into the air off his glove. The pace on the ball takes the ball over the keeper’s head and Pant does a good job to get his gloves the ball as it initially bobbles out before seemingly returning to the keeper’s keeping. The initial decision is OUT but on review the ball clearly kisses the turf before Pant regains control. Decision overturned. Pucovski survives. Again. Drama indeed.
24th over: Australia 55-1 (Pucovski 32, Labuschagne 18) This has been a good little period for India with the runs drying up and Pucovski surviving a catching chance, but Pucovski releases the pressure with a delightfully struck cut shot that whistles past point for four. Nice shot from the man who almost wasn’t there.
23rd over: Australia 49-1 (Pucovski 26, Labuschagne 18) Labuschagne chases Siraj down the leg-side and India look interested as Pant takes cleanly, but there doesn’t seem to be any bat involved. Another maiden to Labuschagne.
Here’s the dropped catch.