The first day of the second Test here at the Ferozeshah Kotla wasn’t much different except that Khawaja’s 81 and Handscomb’s unbeaten 72 perhaps made the Indian attack toil harder than they have at home since the defeat against England in Chennai two years ago. Yet, the Australians, perennially spooked by the look of Indian pitches, could muster 263 in 78.4 overs on a slow track after winning the toss.
Stumps on Day 1⃣ of the second #INDvAUS Test!#TeamIndia openers see through the final overs of the day’s play and… https://t.co/JVAShjnRaS
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1676633869000
Australia, with a three-spinner-one-pacer attack, have a job to do after India openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul played out the nine overs from Pat CumminsNathan Lyon and debutant left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann to put 21 runs on the board at stumps.
Rohit Sharma (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images)
The nippy early morning offered some nip and the Kotla pitch offered slow turn—nothing that international betters are not used to. As Khawaja settled in and looked comfortable to shield a shaky David Warner to forge a 50-run opening partnership, the Indian team got into a huddle at drinks to promptly redraw their strategy.
The Indian attack identified the end that offered a bit more zip and carry for the pacers. Shami operated from that end and got Warner immediately knocking off to wicketkeeper KS Bharat for 15 off 44. As they say, things happen pretty quickly on Indian surfaces. Wickets began to fall in clusters. Australian camp looked like folding cheaply one more time in the series.
Friday was a masterclass of how to bowl as a bowling unit with Shami picking up 4/60 to complement Ravichandran Ashwin’s 3/57 and Ravindra Jadeja’s 3/68. The approach of the Australian batters was different from Nagpur. There was intent to score. Khawaja and Handscomb looked to meet the pacers early on the pitch and target the straight to square boundaries. They decided to play late to the spinners and maneuvered then behind the square. Running down the pitch in turning conditions has never really been the Aussie way of batting. The paddles, sweeps and late cuts make up for that.
Every time Australia looked like cracking the code to bat on this surface, India came up with an answer. Ashwin moved to round the wicket and dismissed Australia’s premiere batters Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, beating them on the inside edge and the outside edge in the same over leaving the tourists on the edge of at 91/3.
The sheer relentlessness of India’s bowling across conditions has stood out in the last half a decade. Friday was just another day of knowing what the conditions demanded and making pivots through the day. Yet, one thing remained constant—attacking the stumps. Even if Khawaja scored rather briskly in his 125-ball stay, he never looked like absolutely dominating the bowling.
Usman Khawaja (AP Photo)
The Indians plugged away knowing opportunities were always on the horizon. Khawaja barely got freebies. Just when Khawaja started to nail every shot off Jadeja, a reverse sweep was sharply snared by KL Rahul at point to end his innings. Australia again looked like crumbling, Handscomb and skipper Pat Cummins (33 off 59) got down to arrest the slide and put on 59 runs for the seventh wicket before Jadeja broke the resistance with classic arm-ball trapping Cummins in front of the stumps.
Khawaja and Handscomb have showed that run-scoring at a fair pace isn’t an unworldly job on this pitch. It’s time their spinners got into the act as a pack quickly.