The first day of Test cricket at the Perth Stadium had something in it for both sides, although Australia would come off the happier one. Just as a bullish Virat Kohli indicated in the pre-match press conference, India went for a four-pronged pace attack and no specialist spinner. But the green top turned deceptive in the first session as Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris ensured that Australia came out on top before Lunch. India struck back the second session though and the wickets that went Hanuma Vihari’s way provided confirmation that the visitors would have benefitted from having a frontline spinner in their attack. 90 overs were bowled on Day 1 and Australia ended it on 277/6. Captain Tim Paine and Pat Cummins will continue for the visitors from their overnight total.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first. For on the third time in history, Indian went into a Test match without a frontline spinner. The first time this happened was in Perth 2012 when Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharmaand Vinay Kumar played together. Yadav was the addition this time around too, replacing Ravichandran Ashwin. Rohit Sharma was replaced by Hanuma Vihari.
Finch, under pressure due to his poor showing in Adelaide, shook off his demons by scoring his second Test fifty. He shared an opening stand of 112 with Harris and the pair ensured that the Indian pacers remain wicketless in the first session. Finch did not last long in the second session, being struck on the shin by Jasprit Bumrah. It was plumb and India got their breakthrough. But that was only after the pair rattled away over 40 runs in the first few overs of the second session.
India then pegged Australia back with a burst of wickets. Over the course of the next hour, the hosts lost four wickets for 36 runs, including that of the set Harris. He was one of two wickets taken by Hanuma Vihari and was undone by the extra bounce that the part-timer generated, nicking the ball to Ajinkya Rahane at slips. This period also featured a blinder of a catch by Kohli to dismiss Peter Handscomb. The batsman tried to cut a delivery that was too close to his body and Kohli caught the ball with his right hand in full stretch.
Usman Khawaja was frustrated into losing his wicket by the pacers and he finally threw his hand as soon as he found some space. Umesh Yadav was the man who snuffled him out.
Shaun Marsh and Travis Head then stemmed the flow of wickets and put the visitors on the backfoot once again. The pair shared an 84-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Head getting to his second fifty of the series. Both players were dismissed due to lose shots. Marsh flashed his hand at a short offbreak delivery by Vihari and sent an edge to the slips while Head did the same and sent it straight to third man.
Now that they have reached the start of the Australian tail, India’s priority on Day 2 will be early wickets. Taking out the lower end of batting lineups has been a problem for India this year and they will be looking to overcome that. After that, all eyes will be on the Australian attack as they try and show that it is they who got it right with their bowling combination.