3rd Test: India’s batting trapped in web of spin

- March 1, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

Rohit Sharma-led home team dismissed for 109 on Day One as Matthew Kuhnemann picks a five-wicket haul. Australia move 47 runs ahead

Matthew Kuhnemann of Australia holds up the ball after taking five wickets in the first innings during day one of the Third Test match in the series between India and Australia at Holkare Cricket Stadium on March 01 in Indore. (Photo: Getty)

Indore: For once, tail-end batting didn’t come to India’s rescue as Australian spinners exploited a surface that provided turn and variable bounce to skittle out the host for a paltry 109 and give their team a shot at winning the third Test.

By the end of Day One at the Holkar Stadium, Australia had made 156/4, taking a 47-run lead with six wickets in hand.

Skipper Rohit Sharma had won the toss and elected to bat with an apparent purpose of wresting initiative with quick, aggressive batting on the first day itself.

Luck seemed to be going his way too as Australia skipper Steve Smith, standing in for the absent Pat Cummins, did not take two reviews in the first over of the match bowled by Mitchell Starc. Replays showed Sharma was caught behind off the first ball of the game and out leg-before on the fourth.

Sharma and Shubman Gill, who replaced KL Rahul in this game, had added 27 by the sixth over to take India off to an impressive start.

But then Sharma (12) erred. Even the umpire’s review couldn’t have saved him as he had danced too far down the track against left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann and missed the line to a ball that turned exaggeratedly to be out-stumped.

Gill (21 off 18) edged another sharp turner from Kuhnemann to Smith at slip.

These two wickets started India’s slide. No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara (1) went for a cut against a ball from Nathan Lyon that also turned sharply and kept slightly low to be out bowled while Ravindra Jadeja (4), who was sent ahead of batsman Shreyas Iyer and survived once through review, was caught at cover as the ball stopped on him and he could not force his shot out of fielder’s reach.

Iyer (0) chopped the ball onto his stumps to leave India at 45/5 in just the 12th over.

While India’s top-order has disappointed on multiple occasions in recent times, Wednesday’s show was most abysmal as it allowed the opposition bowlers to continue using the hard ball and extracting turn and bounce, providing no reprieve to lower-order batsmen through a softer ball.

Kohli (22) and wicketkeeper-batsman KS Bharat (17) added 25 for the sixth wicket before Kohli was out leg-before playing forward but across and soon Bharat returned to the pavilion through a similar mode of dismissal.

It was expected that the tail would offer some resistance and despite Ashwin’s early departure, pace bowler Umesh Yadav (17), who replaced Mohammad Shami for this game, showed an inclination to attack the bowlers.

But his resistance, highlighted by two sixes and a four, lasted just 13 balls.

Starting on positive note

India, however, managed a good start, getting rid of Travis Head early as Jadeja had him leg-before. But Jadeja’s problems with no-balls cost India another early wicket as he bowled Marnus Labuschagne off one. At that time, Labuschagne was yet to score a run and Australia were on 14.

Besides, his over-enthusiasm to get a solid-looking Usman Khawaja wasted two of India’s three reviews.

Then the fear of losing the third and final review after wasting the first two cost India another opportunity to get Labuschagne early. The Aussie batsman was given not out off R Ashwin but as per the replays, he was out leg-before.

Labuschagne (31) cashed in on it and added 96 for the second wicket with Khawaja (60). The two fell post-tea one after the other, Labuschagne bowled and Khawaja to sweep, as Jadeja indemnified for early review losses and no-ball with two wickets. Soon he had Smith (26) too, caught behind as India kept themselves alive.