Umesh shines on dry pitch as India start well

Cricket First Test : Battling Australians reach 256/9

Umesh shines  on dry pitch as India start well

Umesh Yadav didn’t get to bowl until India had sent down 27 overs and Australia, against all expectations, had progressed to 81 without loss. During this laborious stretch in the first session, Virat Kohli had employed all his other four specialist bowlers without the yield he was expecting to extract from a pitch that resembled a parched land.    

The introduction of the pacer in the 28th over, however, turned the innings on its head. The right-arm quick (4/32) struck a few minutes before lunch to get rid of David Warner with the very second legal ball of his first over to set the cat among pigeons. Australia, from a comfortable position of 119 for one, eventually ended the day at 256 for nine in 94 overs after electing to bat first on the opening day of the first Test here at the thinly-populated Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.

A little bit of misfortune, too, added to Australia’s woes when a well-set Matt Renshaw (68, 156b, 10x4, 1x6) had to retire ill the moment Warner was dismissed. The opener, suffering from an upset stomach, couldn’t prolong his visit to the toilet and that meant Australia suddenly had two fresh batsmen in the middle. On a surface where it was difficult to feel “in” even after spending considerable time in the middle, the prospect of two new batsmen wasn’t an ideal situation to be in. And it proved to be so.  

Had it not been for Mitchell Starc’s cameo (57 batting, 58b, 5x4, 3x6) and his 51-run association for the unbroken last wicket with Josh Hazlewood, Australia, who had slipped to 205 for nine at one stage, would have found themselves in a far worse position after earning an early advantage by winning the toss.

The three-pronged spin unit of Ravichandra Ashwin (2/59), Ravindra Jadeja (2/74) and Jayant Yadav (1/58) played no little role, sharing five wickets between them to push Australia to the brink.

The early signs, though, gave little indication of things to follow as the day wore on. Rookie Renshaw and seasoned Warner denied India any success, exhibiting excellent application and aptitude on a pitch that offered sharp spin and bounce right from the second over of the day, when Ashwin was brought into attack. While Warner batted with uncharacteristic restraint, Renshaw appeared remarkably unperturbed for someone playing for the first time in India. He batted with soft hands, adjusted his bat speed, either got to the pitch of the ball to smother the spin or played as late as possible to execute the right shot.    

The exit of Warner and Renshaw brought skipper Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh in the middle and the two survived to break for lunch. Upon resumption, Smith and Marsh perhaps batted with more circumspection than was required. Only 37 runs came off 19.1 overs during their association and it wasn’t long before Marsh fell after miscuing a sweep off Jayant Yadav. Peter Handscomb was a dead duck against a straight ball by Ravindra Jadeja. Smith followed them soon, playing an aerial shot off Ashwin to Virat Kohli at mid-on. It was a trap that was specifically set for Smith and he walked into it. Australia managed just 69 runs off 30 overs while losing three top-order batsmen, handing the momentum to India. 

It was an Umesh show in the final session of the day as the paceman rattled the Aussies with three wickets, including two in one over, to clearly tilt the balance in India’s favour. While Jadeja trapped Mitchell Marsh with an arm ball, Renshaw chased and nicked one that spun sharp.

Umesh has been Kohli’s go-to man whenever he has needed a breakthrough in this home season and he didn’t disappoint him with wonderful exhibition of pace bowling with the old ball. He sent back Matthew Wade, Steven O’Keefe (caught superbly by Wriddhiman Saha) and Nathan Lyon to reduce Australia to 205/9. Starc and Josh Hazlewood held firm thereafter but how long?

score board

Renshaw c Vijay b Ashwin    68
(168m, 156b, 10x4, 1x6)
Warner b Umesh    38
(100m, 77b, 6x4)
Smith c Kohli b Ashwin    27
(126m, 95b, 2x4)
S Marsh c Kohli b Jayant    16
(65m, 55b, 3x4)
Handscomb lbw Jadeja    22
(56m, 45b, 3x4)
M Marsh lbw Jadeja    4
(24m, 18b, 1x4)
Wade lbw Umesh    8
(25m, 20b, 1x4)
Starc (batting)    57
(84m, 58b, 5x4, 3x6)
O’Keefe c Saha b Umesh    0
(16m, 13b)
Lyon lbw Umesh    0
(1m, 1b)
Hazlewood (batting)    1
(51m, 31b)
Extras (LB-6, NB-9)    15
Total (for 9 wkts, 94 overs)    256

Fall of wickets: 1-82 (Warner), 2-119 (S Marsh), 3-149 (Handscomb), 4-149 (Smith), 5-166 (M Marsh), 6-190 (Wade), 7-196 (Renshaw), 8-205 (O’Keefe), 9-205 (Lyon).
Bowling: Ishant 11-0-27-0 (nb-1), Ashwin 34-10-59-2, Jayant 13-1-58-1 (nb-5), Jadeja 24-4-74-2 (nb-2), Umesh 12-3-32-4 (nb-1).

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