PERTH  -   Twice in the day, Australia looked in control of the game. They were in the driver’s seat, and hardly looked in trouble. They proceeded to throw away both those dominant positions to end the day at 277/6. However, on a surface that looks like hard work for the batsmen, Australia seem to have reached a score that will give their bowlers a lot of confidence.

The first three hours of the day belonged entirely to Australia. They won an important toss and elected to bat first, and Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris ensured they vindicated that decision by seeing off the new ball and the first session unscathed.

India seemed to have bought all the hype about the spice in the wicket. Early on the opening day, the pitch wore a slightly less green dress than it had the previous day. There was still significant grass cover, but not really the kind that would send the creeps down batsmen spines. India, though, still found reason enough to ditch their main spin options and go with four frontline pacers. They also went in with Umesh Yadav ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, thus elongating their tail, which will now see one of Ishant or Yadav himself bat at number 8.

Despite the threatening attack on paper, Harris and Finch found themselves in little trouble in the opening session. In the first half of the second session, they stepped on the gas, and runs came in a hurry. Harris’s fifty, Australia’s hundred and Finch’s fifty all came rolling quickly. Then, the Bumrah that India wanted arrived.

In his third spell, he trapped Finch with a full ball, before leaving Usman Khawaja all at sea. The left-armer had to play out an extremely testing phase from Bumrah, and reached five off 34 to see off his spell. He, however, fell to Bumrah’s replacement, Umesh Yadav, edging a cut through to the wicketkeeper immediately after. India could have been one better at that stage, but KL Rahul had put down a tough chance from Harris off Shami in the previous over.

Hanuma Vihari, who was brought in for the injured Rohit Sharma and leading India’s spin responsibilities at Perth, came to the party soon after. His first over to Finch had seen him being hit for two boundaries, but he came back strong now. Marcus Harris was surprised by a ball that bounced big from a good length, and could only glove it to Ajinkya Rahane at slip.

Virat Kohli then pulled off a one-handed blinder at second slip to remove Peter Handscomb cheaply. The right-hander looked to cut a short ball off Ishant, and seemed to have split the gap between slip and gully. Kohli, however, leapt to his right, and plucked out a superb catch to give India their fourth wicket. Australia had slipped from 112 for no loss to 148/4 in less than 20 overs.

Shaun Marsh and Travis Head then steadied the ship for Australia. The pair survived testing spells from each of India’s pacers, but ensured the runs kept coming.

They were helped by India’s persistence in bowling their part-time spinner in Vihari.

Their 84-run stand helped Australia back onto higher ground, and with stumps looming they tried to push more pressure onto the visitors.

But just like in the second session, the ploy to attack backfired. Vihari had been regularly bowling outside off, hoping the extra bounce would help him while the batsmen played the cut. He had already seen Marsh being dropped by Pant while doing exactly that. He had his reward just as the new ball was around the corner. Marsh’s attempted cut was taken sharply by Rahane at slip.

Head then went for an expansive drive against the new ball and Ishant, and ended up giving Shami a catch at third man. Again, a promising position was given away by the home team. India, Bumrah in particular, continued to conjure unplayable deliveries with the new ball, but Paine and Cummins managed to survive till stumps.

Scorecard

AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 326

INDIA 1ST INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 172-3):

K Rahul b Hazlewood 2

M Vijay b Starc 0

C Pujara c Paine b Starc 24

V Kohli c Handscomb b Cummins 123

A Rahane c Paine b Lyon 51

H Vihari c Paine b Hazlewood 20

R Pant c Starc b Lyon 36

M Shami c Paine b Lyon 0

I Sharma c and b Lyon 1

U Yadav not out 4

J Bumrah c Khawaja b Lyon 4

EXTRAS: (b4, lb7, nb2, w5) 18

TOTAL: (all out, 105.5 overs) 283

FOW: 1-6, 2-8, 3-82, 4-173, 5-223, 6-251, 7-252, 8-254, 9-279, 10-283.

BOWLING: Starc 24-4-79-2 (2nb), Hazlewood 21-8-66-2, Cummins 26-4-60-1 (1w), Lyon 34.5-7-67-5.

AUSTRALIA 2ND INNINGS:

M Harris b Bumrah 20

A Finch retired hurt 25

U Khawaja not out 41

S Marsh c Pant b Shami 5

P Handscomb lbw Sharma 13

T Head c Sharma b Shami 19

T Paine not out 8

EXTRAS: (lb1) 1

TOTAL: (4 wkts, 48 overs) 132

FOW: 1-59, 2-64, 3-85, 4-120.

BOWLING: Sharma 9-0-33-1, Bumrah 13-5-25-1, Shami 10-3-23-2, Yadav 8-0-39-0, Vihar 8-4-11-0.

TOSS: Australia

UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI), Chris Gaffaney (NZL)

TV UMPIRE: Nigel Llong (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)