Head steadies ship for Australia with gutsy knock

India's paceman Ishant Sharma (C) celebrates with teammates after dismissing Australia's batsman Aaron Finch during day two of the first cricket Test match at the Adelaide Oval on December 7, 2018. (AFP Photo)

If India found a savior in a tenacious Cheteshwar Pujara on the opening day, local boy Travis Head rose to the occasion to rescue Australia from conceding a big advantage to the tourists with an innings that was worth its weight in gold.

Resuming the final session of Friday’s second day of the opening Test at 117/4, Australia soon slipped to 127 for six with Jasprit Bumrah accounting for a well-set Peter Handscomb and Ishant Sharma ending skipper Tim Paine’s miserable stay in quick succession. India looked primed for gaining a big first-innings lead but Head, first in the company of Pat Cummins and then in an unbroken partnership with Mitchell Starc, frustrated the tourists by not just denying them his wicket but also keeping the scoreboard moving.

At close on another extended day, Australia finished the proceedings at 191 for seven from 88 overs, trailing India by 59 runs. India were bowled out for their overnight score of 250 with Mohammad Shami getting out to the first ball of the day here at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.

Playing only his third Test, Head was batting on 61 (149b, 6x4) for his second half-century and Starc was on 8 off 17 balls. The left-hander shared a 50-run stand with Cummins for the seventh wicket and has now added 14 runs with Starc. India summoned the new ball immediately after it was available, but they only managed to remove Cummins. With the new ball just eight overs old, India will look to wipe out Australia quickly on the third morning. Any lead in vicinity of 40 runs could prove handy given the slow nature of the wicket which is not menacing but scoring runs is getting increasingly difficult.

Before Head took control of the situation, R Ashwin threatened to run through the home innings by picking 3/38 before tea. The off-spinner was in nice rhythm -- giving nice air to the ball, getting it to drift and occasionally bounce with some turn that kept the Aussie batsmen on their toes. While the pacemen were disciplined, barring Mohammad Shami, who took a medical timeout for a shoulder problem, wickets weren’t coming. The introduction of the off-spinner after the first drinks break in the opening session, helped India make inroads. His uninterrupted spell till tea interval read 22-5-38-3.

The day’s play began on a rather dramatic note with two wickets – one each from either camp -- falling in the space of four balls. After Shami was out caught behind while attempting a pull off Hazlwewood, India got off to a cracking start with Ishant cleaning up opener Aaron Finch off the third ball of the innings. It was a beauty of a delivery that was pitched up, drawing the right-hander into a front foot drive. Just as Finch pushed his bat hard towards the ball, it pitched up and nipped back into him before uprooting the middle and off stumps after a thin inside edge.

India couldn’t have asked for a better start but that remained the lone moment of success for Virat Kohli’s men for a long time to come with debutante Marcus Harris (26) and the experienced Khawaja consolidating the innings. The two left-handers were extra cautious to start with but once Harris sussed up the conditions, he began to free his arms to deliveries that begged to be punished. The two added 45 runs for the second wicket before Ashwin ended the association by dismissing Harris with a brilliant ball. He tossed up the delivery, got it to drift and took the inside edge before popping off the pad to M Vijay at silly point.

Khawaja and Marsh negotiated the period through to lunch without further damage, but India struck immediately after lunch when Marsh dragged Ashwin’s flighted delivery on to stumps. This was the fifth time that Marsh was falling to Ashwin in Tests.

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Head steadies ship for Australia with gutsy knock

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