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India takes first-day Test honors against Australia

Day 2 India Australia

Australia’s Border-Gavaskar trophy hopes are delicately poised after they fought their way to a modest first innings of 263 in the second Test against India in Delhi. India openers Rohit Sharma (13 no) and KL Rahul (four no) survived a tricky nine-over spell before stumps on Friday’s opening day to guide the hosts to 0-21 at Arun Jaitely Stadium. Sharma was given out off Nathan Lyon’s bowling in the final over, but the India captain successfully overturned the decision. After captain Pat Cummins won his eighth-straight toss, Australia built more of a platform than in Nagpur last week, when they capitulated to an innings and 132-run defeat. Resilient knocks from Usman Khawaja (81) and Peter Handscomb (72 no) helped Australian to almost surpass their two combined innings from the first Test. The tourists would have hoped for a higher score on a pitch holding few demons but the total was perhaps better than expected after they’d slumped to 3-91 and 6-168. “I don’t know a par score until India bats on it,” Khawaja said.

“They’re very good in their conditions. “I think now we have three spinners in the team, especially on that wicket, is going to be challenging, just like their spinners were very challenging.” Australia have made some bold and at times puzzling selections already in this four-Test series, but they are already vindicated by the decision to recall Handscomb. The Victorian delivered one of his finest performances in a baggy green by thwarting India’s imposing attack. Handscomb combined for a 61-run fifth-wicket stand with Khawaja as the pair appeared to turn the momentum in Australia’s favour. But after losing 2-0 in three balls in the first session, Australia lost 2-1 soon before the tea break as Alex Carey was dismissed without scoring. It was first-Test stars Ravichandran Ashwin (3-57) and Ravi Jadeja (3-68) who landed the important blows by taking the prized scalps of Marnus Labuschange and Steve Smith. Khawaja’s enterprising knock came to an end in stunning fashion, with India opener KL Rahul hanging onto a diving, mid-air catch as the home crowd erupted as the 36-year-old finished 19 runs short of a famous century. Khawaja’s opening partner David Warner fell for 15 to end a torturous innings where he was hit on the helmet and elbow in separate incidents. After India took 15 of Australia’s 20 wickets in Nagpur with spin, fast bowler Mohammed Shami bowled tirelessly to finish with figures of 4-60. Australia’s bold gamble to experiment with playing Cummins as their only recognised quick will be put to the ultimate test on Saturday, after the tourists opted to include Queensland spinner Matt Kuhnemann. Kuhnemann was playing in front of barely a 100 fans at the Sheffield Shield less than a week ago, but the left-armer opened the bowling alongside Cummins in the Indian capital. The 26-year-old is playing as a third spinner alongside first Test sensation Todd Murphy and veteran Nathan Lyon after being called into the squad six days ago to replace Queensland teammate Mitchell Swepson. The last time Australia picked three spinners was against Bangladesh in 2017 when Lyon, Ashton Agar and Steve O’Keefe played, as well as allrounder Glenn Maxwell. Miserly Victorian quick Scott Boland dropped out for Kuhnemann after playing an important role in Nagpur last week. After being dropped for the first Test, Travis Head replaced Matt Renshaw after selectors said they valued the world’s No.4 ranked bowler’s part-time off spin.

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