MS Dhoni was back as skipper for India and he called correctly opting to bat first. The wicket had a slight green tinge and Australia went into this game with Johnson, Starc, Hazlewood, Marsh and Watson all capable of exploiting the conditions. However, India got off to a rollicking start and put the Aussies on the back foot.
Dhawan started positively but gave Mitch Marsh his first test scalp caught behind off a ball too close to cut on 24. Pujara steadied proceedings intent to play the sheet anchor role that his predecessor Rahul Dravid did so effectively. At the other end, Murali Vijay continued to exhibit an array of gorgeous drives, cuts and flicks off his legs.
But India continued to be haunted by the absence of the DRS as umpire Gould wrongly adjudicated Pujara caught behind for 18, when the ball in fact grazed his helmet. Virat Kohli strode out to the middle next and looked in sublime touch but failed to read the bounce off a Hazlewood delivery attempting a cut to be snared by Haddin. If Australia felt that they were just beginning to get on top, it was short lived.
Under the Brisbane heat, all the Australian fast bowlers were affected. Mitchell Marsh tore his hamstring and will not bowl for the rest of the match. Starc had to rest up after suffering from the heat. Johnson looked ginger at times as he clutched his right hip late in the day. Even Hazlewood, who was Australia’s best bowler went off the field after a niggle. All this didn’t help the over rate, which Australia was woefully behind. This was despite 22 overs of spin being bowled in the day including a lone over from the skipper Smith and Warner. In the end, Australia were seven overs short and play is likely to start earlier on day 2.
In the midst of all this, Murali Vijay notched up his 5th test ton not even realising he had crossed three figures until he looked at the scoreboard. Vijay was particularly severe off Johnson and Starc hitting 68 runs off just 86 deliveries against them. He hit 22 boundaries in his knock of 144, eventually out stumped off the bowling of Lyon as he began to tire. In 2003, Ganguly had also hit 144 as India drew the Brisbane test. They will be hoping to go one better here.
Rahane looked uncomfortable at the crease early, but regained his composure and took a liking to Lyon. He raced to finish the day on 75*, while Rohit Sharma is batting currently on 26 off just 34 deliveries. The pair added 50 runs off the last 10 overs in the day as India took the honours on day 1.
Australia will be looking to come back on Day 2 with a much improved performance. They will take heart from that fact that in the 2003 series, India were 4/329 at the end of Day 1, only to be all out for 366 and lose the match by 9 wickets. It may be a slightly different scenario here with MS Dhoni and the accomplished Ravi Ashwin still to come.
The 1st session on day 2 will be crucial for both teams and could well decide who ends up winning the match.
Navneet Ganesh is the founder of Infinity Cricket, which organises Australia’s premier ‘open’ T20 cricket events at the grassroots level and has a presence in two cities: Melbourne & Brisbane. Navneet also has a keen interest in writing.