Australia were pleased with their overall position at the end of the first day of the second Test against India on Friday, despite several top order batsmen failing to capitalise on promising starts in Perth.
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 for six, 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.
Finch, who made 50 at the top of the order to ease some of the pressure on his spot in the team, said the Australians were satisfied with their work given the conditions.
“I thought we batted really well today,” he said, adding that the wicket presented “some challenges”.
India dropped two catches and ended the day with concerns of their own.
Paceman Ishant Sharma briefly left the field late in the day with what team officials said was cramp, and their batsmen would have been slightly alarmed by some of the variable bounce.
Recalled batsman Hanuma Vihari, who picked up two important wickets with his part-time spin including a sharply rising delivery which removed Harris, admitted it was impossible to ignore the variable bounce but that their batsmen would not be concerned by it.
Vihari said the game was evenly poised heading into the second day. “The first hour tomorrow is crucial,” he said.
Four Australian batsmen made over 40, but none went on to post a substantial inning. 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 putting on 112 for the first wicket.
Despite the pitch having a distinctly green tinge that appealed to a rare 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 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.