A dazzling debut bowling performance followed by a captain’s knock helped Australia claw back to level pegging on day 2 of the second Test at the Gabba, emphatically putting a disastrous first day behind them as Josh Hazlewood and Steve Smith starred.
India resumed at 4/311, but the rejuvenated Australian attack shook off their injury woes to take the remaining six wickets for just 97 runs in the opening session as the tourists’ lower order faltered for the third consecutive innings.
Just 10 runs were added before Hazlewood removed Ajinkya Rahane for 81, while Shane Watson claimed the scalp of out of sorts Rohit Sharma – thanks to an absolute screamer by Steve Smith at second slip – to have India at 6/328.
After a 57-run stand between returning duo Ravi Ashwin and MS Dhoni, Hazlewood got rid of both of them in consecutive overs to complete a dream debut five-for. Dhoni was out caught behind, giving Haddin an equal-Australian record six catches in the innings.
But the highlight of the day was a sensational diving catch in close by substitute fielder Marnus Labuschagne. Fielding under the helmet in close, the 20-year-old South African-born Queensland Bulls opener took an unforgettable one-hander centimetres off the ground off Nathan Lyon’s bowling to dismiss Varun Aaron.
Labuschagne, who made his Sheffield Shield debut this season, has previous form though – take a look at this eerily similar ripping take of a corncob at home with teammate James Bazley.
Umesh Yadav fell to Lyon in the spinner’s next over, holing out to Chris Rogers near the boundary, India all out for 408.
David Warner started Australia’s innings in typical fashion, blasting six boundaries to race to 29, but was out in the ninth over after catching a leading edge while trying to swat Ashwin down leg side.
Shane Watson’s ordinary run continued when he hit Yadav straight to Dhawan at mid-on for 25 – his seventh consecutive Test innings without notching a half-century.
Embattled opener Chris Rogers eased the pressure on his spot somewhat by bringing up his first 50 in nine innings, but he was caught behind down leg just before tea for 55 to leave Australia delicately poised at 3/121.
Smith and Shaun Marsh then steadied the ship with an 87-run stand. Marsh, in his first Test innings since scoring a pair at Port Elizabeth in February, was dropped after skying a shot to Rahane – a mild reprieve for putting down century-maker Murali Vijay twice in the first innings.
But Marsh was sent on his way for 32 as Yadav claimed his third wicket. First-time skipper Smith took it upon himself to anchor the innings, unbeaten on 65 at stumps, while Mitchell Marsh – injured while bowling on day 1 – survived on 7 to see Australia through to 4/221.
Stud of the day
After an arduous first day, Australia desperately needed quick wickets, and it was the 23-year-old Hazlewood who provided the early breakthrough and kept the momentum going. Four of his wickets were caught behind by Haddin and the other was taken at first slip by Watson in a fine display of pace bowling. While Mitchell Starc continued to struggle, Hazlewood stepped up – the NSW tyro appears an outstanding long-term prospect for Australia.
Ashwin (35 off 41 balls) was in ominous form and was building a nice partnership with Dhoni, but Hazlewood struck to dismiss the dangerous all-rounder and spark a lower order collapse, India losing their last four wickets for just 23 runs.
Australia will need to bat well to claim a first innings lead – they are currently 187 in arrears – but Smith is in scintillating form and can carry his team well past 400…if Mitchell Marsh and Brad Haddin can hang around long enough to offer genuine support. It’s another remarkably even Test between these two great international foes, and it is shaping up to go down to the wire once again.
So far in this series, Steve Smith has made 279 runs in three innings without being dismissed. He has scored 844 at 77 so far in 2014 – an average that will climb further as he resumes tomorrow – with three 100s and five 50s, failing to reach a half-century in just one of his eight Test appearances this year (he posted a score of 49 in that match).