Australia’s 26-year unbeaten run at the Gabba is under serious threat after injury and fatigue ripped through their bowling attack in sweltering Brisbane conditions in the second Test, India taking control to finish the first day at 4/311.
The attrition rate was astounding for the hosts in the 34-degree heat: Mitchell Marsh broke down with a hamstring injury; debutant Josh Hazlewood left the field due to whole-body cramps; Mitchell Starc suffered from heat-related stress, and back and rib complaints; and Mitchell Johnson was hampered by a finger injury.
New captain Steve Smith, Australia’s third-youngest Test skipper, was forced to use eight bowlers – including himself and opener David Warner – while four sub fielders were called upon during the day as the hosts’ dressing-room doors resembled that of the ER at the nearby Mater Hospital on a Saturday night.
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Marsh was jubilant at capturing his maiden Test wicket – and Australia’s first of the day – when he had Shikhar Dhawan caught behind for 24, although replays showed the ball had only grazed Dhawan’s helmet grill as India’s shunning of the DRS system continued to haunt them. But Marsh’s joy turned to disappointment as he hobbled off the Gabba.
Hazlewood’s performance was the bright spot of the day for Australia, claiming the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara (18) and Virat Kohli (19), both caught behind, to leave India 3/137. The tyro succumbed to debilitating cramps, but gamely returned later in the day for another spell before being forced to abandon his 16th over.
Meanwhile, Murali Vijay crafted a brilliant 144 of 213 balls – just reward after being cruelly dismissed for 99 on the last day of the Adelaide Test. He put on 114 for the fourth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (75 not out), who had added 50 with Rohit Sharma (26 not out) before stumps.
Vijay was dropped twice by recalled batsman Shaun Marsh, before Nathan Lyon had him stumped via Haddin’s fourth dismissal of the day.
The health of Australia’s bowling attack was compounded by its ineffectiveness. Although the sticky heat was a mitigating factor, Starc – who replaced veteran Peter Siddle – was listless with 0/56 in14 overs, while Johnson lacked his usual zip with 0/64 in 15 overs.
The frequent interruptions meant Australia bowled just 83 overs on day 1.
Starc, Johnson and Hazlewood are expected to be able to bowl on day 2, but Marsh is likely to be used solely as a batsman for the remainder of the Test.
Stud of the day
Vijay anchored India’s innings superbly, blasting 22 boundaries and keeping the run rate moving to put the tourists in a commanding position.
Marsh’s dropped low chance at third slip proved crucial. Vijay should have been on his way for 36, which would have left India at 2/60 with two batsmen on nought.
The trajectory of the Test hinges on the fitness of Hazlewood, Johnson and Starc, and the ability of the latter two to offer far more than they did on day 1. Shane Watson will also have to shoulder a heavy workload as Australia desperately chases quick wickets. India’s focus will be offering more resistance in the lower order, which let them down in Adelaide. Temperatures are predicted to reach 33 on Thursday, while forecast showers and storms may offer the weary Australians brief respite.
Vijay’s century – the fifth of his 29-Test career – was the first ever by a visiting opener in the first innings of a Gabba Test. It beat the modest long-standing record of 83 scored by West Indian Joey Carew in 1968.
Around the world
- The Pakistan-New Zealand ODI series in the UAE is locked at two-all after four matches. Pakistan swept to a 147-run victory in the third encounter after Ahemed Shehzad’s 113 and the mercurial Shahid Afridi’s 55 off 26 balls helped the ‘hosts’ to 7/364. But the Black Caps bounced back superbly in the fourth clash, with captain Kane Williamson hitting a marvellous 123 from 105 balls to lead his side to 5/299. Younis Khan’s 103 was not enough for Pakistan, who finished seven runs shy of New Zealand’s total.
- Veteran world-class duo AB De Villiers (141 not out) and Hashim Amla (133 not out) dominated the West Indian bowling attack on the first day of the first Test at Centurion, guiding the hosts to a commanding 3/340 at stumps after they were a precarious 3/57. The pair’s unbeaten 283-run stand smashed the South African fourth-wicket partnership Test record.