2nd Test, Day 2: Head powers Australia to 61/1 at stumps, lead India by 62 runs

Travis head began his promotion to opening on a great note as he remained unbeaten on 39 to take Australia to 61/1 in 12 overs at stumps on day one of second Test against India at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday.

After Australia took a lead by a solitary run, as India were bowled out for 262 in their first innings, Head attacked to give the visitors’ some quick runs. Giving him company is Marnus Labuschagne at 16 not out.

With 13 overs left in the day, Australia opted to send Head as an opener in absence of a concussed David Warner alongside Usman Khawaja. Head made an instant impression, pulling and driving off Mohammed Shami for boundaries, and got a thick outer edge off Ravichandran Ashwin for his third four in five overs.

After being heaved over deep mid-wicket by Khawaja, Jadeja struck on the very next ball, as the left-handed batter swept straight to a sharp short leg moving to his left. Labuschagne took on Jadeja, sweeping twice and punching off backfoot to take three boundaries in the eighth over. Head took the rive against Jadeja and then danced down the pitch to hit Ashwin over long-on for six, before stumps were called on a riveting day.

For India, Left-arm spin all-rounder Axar Patel top-scored with his second consecutive fifty in the series as the hosts’ were bowled out for 262 in their first innings. At one point, it looked like Australia will have a huge lead, as India were 139/7 in 50.5 overs.

But Axar slammed 74 off 115 balls and shared an important 114-run partnership off 177 balls with Ravichandran Ashwin, who made 37 off 71 balls, for the eighth wicket to bring India on the threshold of taking a lead.

Despite the stand, they missed out on the lead by a solitary run as Australia wrapped up the Indian first innings within 3.3 overs of taking the second new ball. For Australia, premier off-spinner Nathan Lyon starred with 5/60, including taking four wickets in the morning session.

The final session began with Lyon and Todd Murphy sharing bowling duties and countering them were Axar and Ashwin with defence, strike rotation and some lucky byes. As India reached 200, the crowd got its voice back and were cheering loudly for Axar and Ashwin.

Steve Smith at slip couldn’t make a dash for a low catch when Axar was batting, while Matthew Renshaw didn’t grab a chance of taking Ashwin’s catch at leg slip, giving the batters boundaries. Axar got his fifty in 94 balls when he lofted Matthew Kuhnemann over wide long-on for six, with the crowd massively entertained by his blitzkrieg.

Pat Cummins brought himself to find some reverse swing, but Axar hit him for a sumptuous drive between cover and mid-off for four, followed by a smashing cut through the off-side for another boundary. Lyon also came under the attack, with Axar cutting through backward point and an outside edge flying off Ashwin’s bat past slip to make it two fours in the over.

With the second new ball available, Australia took it and got success immediately as Ashwin chipped to a diving square leg off Cummins, falling for 37. Axar then created room against Murphy to hit him over extra cover for six.

But on the very next ball, Axar tried to go over mid-on, but Cummins dived to his left and took a one-handed screamer of a catch over his head. Kuhnemann ended the Indian innings by castling Mohammed Shami for two.

Earlier, Lyon ran through the Indian top order in the morning session, taking out KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shreyas Iyer to leave India at 88/4. Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja joined forces for a 59-run stand off 129 balls for the fifth wicket.

While Kohli was patient, showed solid footwork and rotated the strike well, Jadeja was solid in defence and drove off Murphy while clipped off Lyon for boundaries. But Murphy trapped Jadeja plumb in front with an off-break delivery coming in with the arm. Jadeja took the review, but replays showed ball hitting middle stump.

Kohli then became Kuhnemann’s maiden Test wicket when he was rapped in front of middle-stump. With his bat and pad so close to meeting the ball at the same time, TV umpire Richard Illingworth concluded ball hit pad first and retained the on-field call as ball tracking showed umpire’s call, resulting in Kohli falling six runs short of his fifty.

KS Bharat began with a reverse-sweep off Lyon. But three balls later, the off-spinner had the last laugh by having Bharat go for the sweep early and lobbed off the glove to slip running backwards, giving Lyon his five-fer. From there, Ashwin and Axar mixed caution with aggression to bail India out of trouble, though Australia took a one-run lead.

Brief scores: Australia 263 and 61/1 in 12 overs (Travis Head 39; Ravindra Jadeja 1/23) lead India 262 all out in 83.3 overs (Axar Patel 74, Virat Kohli 44; Nathan Lyon 5/67, Todd Murphy 2/53) by 62 run

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