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R Ashwin

India nose ahead despite Head's battling half-century

Aus v Ind, 1st Test Day 2, report

Ravichandran Ashwin picked up three wickets, while Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah shared four as India reduced Australia to 191/7 after putting up 250.

Australia may have had a brilliant run on Day 1, their bowlers reducing India to 250/9, but the story was starkly different when it was their turn with the bat.

Josh Hazlewood picked up the last Indian wicket, strangling Mohammed Shami down leg, without addition to the overnight score. But from then until Travis Head's gritty 61* towards the end of the day, Australia had little to cheer about, the Indian bowlers running riot.

Sharma made an impact in the very first over, getting one to swing in sharply to castle Aaron Finch – Australia were 0/1.

Debutant Marcus Harris, Finch's opening partner, displayed more resistance, but never looked fully comfortable during his knock of 26, and then left after a bat-pad catch to silly point off an Ashwin in-drifter.

After lunch, Shaun Marsh was lured with one tossed up outside off. He drove but as the ball dipped on him, he only got an inside edge onto his stumps, falling for 2, leaving Australia at 59/3. Ashwin got good purchase from the wicket, and the drift he got through the air made him a threatening prospect.

Ishant Sharma made an early impact, removing Aaron Finch for a duck, and later getting Tim Paine
Ishant Sharma made an early impact, removing Aaron Finch for a duck, and later getting Tim Paine

He was soon to make possibly the most important breakthrough, getting one to dip and then turn to graze Usman Khawaja's outside edge on the way to the wicket-keeper. Khawaja had battled for his 28, taking 125 balls for it, but Ashwin finally had his number even as he looked to move forward and smother the turn.

For some time it looked like the bright young men in Peter Handscomb and Head would yank Australia out of a rather troubling position, as they both looked fairly solid. But India were relentless. Bumrah joined the party, getting one to bounce a bit more than usual, finding Handscomb's leading edge through to Rishabh Pant as he looked to turn it down the leg-side, falling for 34.

Australia skipper Tim Paine didn't look at ease during his brief stay and was put out of his misery by Sharma when he tamely poked outside off to fall for five. All this while, Head had been growing in confidence and had already played a couple of confident drives.

Travis Head held things together for Australia with a fine fifty
Travis Head held things together for Australia with a fine fifty

Pat Cummins came and gave Head all the support, although in a more defensive capacity. Head soon went past his 50 although India continued to bowl well.

The Head-Cummins partnership was snapped at 50, Cummins having scored just 10, the moment the new ball was taken, Bumrah getting it to swing in the line of stumps as Cummins shouldered arms only to be struck on his pads. He reviewed, but the ball was hitting top of off.

Mitchell Starc had a few nervy moments, including a miscued slog off Ashwin that just cleared the man at point, but was able to keep company with Head at stumps. Head will look to build on his 61 early on the third day to try and get Australia closer to the Indian score, but the visitors will feel confident of wrapping the tail up after a truly stellar show upfront.

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