Australia’s top-order batsmen squandered a number of promising starts but still claimed the early advantage on the first day of the second Test against India in Perth on Friday.
A century opening partnership after captain Tim Paine won the toss and elected to bat appeared to lay the foundation for a sizeable total on a challenging pitch at Test cricket’s newest venue, but openers Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch were among a number of top order players who couldn’t build the big individual score Australia craved.
At stumps on a scorching day, the home side were 277-6, with Tim Paine on 16 and Pat Cummins on 11, a crowd of 20,746 braving the heat to be part of history on the first day of Test cricket at the new Optus Stadium.
Although Australia might have been lamenting a missed opportunity, India, which dropped two catches, ended the day with concerns of their own.
Paceman Ishant Sharma briefly left the field late in the day with what appeared to be a side issue, and their batsmen would have been a bit alarmed by some of the variable bounce on the opening day.
It was a solid day at the crease for the Australians, but could have been much better had any of its four batsmen who made over 40 gone on to post a substantial innings.
Second-gamer Harris led the way with 70, Finch made 50, Travis Head hit 58 before throwing his wicket away and local favourite Shaun Marsh made 45.
3 wickets lost for 22
Australia started very well, with Harris and the under-pressure opener Finch, needing to justify his position at the top of the order, putting on 112 for the first wicket.
Finch lived dangerously at times and narrowly survived successive lbw appeals early in his innings, one of which cost India a DRS review, to notch his second Test half-century.
Despite the pitch having a distinctly green tinge that appealed to the four-pronged Indian pace attack, the pair backed their captain’s call at the toss until Finch’s luck ran out and he was trapped in front by paceman Jasprit Bumrah (1-41).
Finch’s dismissal brought struggling left-hander Usman Khawaja to the wicket and he made just five, sparring at a short ball from Umesh Yadav and getting a thick edge to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.
Harris was dropped at second slip from the bowling of Mohammed Shami on 60, he but added just 10 more before falling to the part-time spin of the recalled Hanuma Vihari (2-53).
Vihari got a ball to rise sharply off the pitch and it followed Harris as he recoiled, fending it to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip.
Harris had been there for 141 balls, but his dismissal meant Australia had lost three wickets for just 22 runs and surrendered their early advantage.
Australia slumped to 148 for four when Peter Handscomb (7) again fell against a short ball outside off stump, Indian skipper Virat Kohli pulling down a scintillating one-handed catch in slips from the bowling of Sharma (2-35).
Marsh, dropped by Pant on 24 from the bowling of Vahari, and Head steadied the shop with an 84-run stand.
However, Marsh became Vihari’s second victim, caught at first slip by Ajinkya Rahane.
Head was growing in confidence and was eyeing his first Test century until a rush of blood saw him lash out at a wide delivery from Ishant and slice it straight to Mohammed Shami on the third man boundary.
India won the first Test in Adelaide by 31 runs as they seek their first series victory on Australian soil.