India A 41 for 0 (Agarwal 31*, Samarth 10*) trail Australia A 243 (Khawaja 127, Labuschagne 60, Siraj 8-59) by 202 runs
Australia A had started the first day in ideal fashion till they ran into Mohammed Siraj. Makeshift opener Kurtis Patterson, who had come in to replace the injured Matt Renshaw, partnered Usman Khawaja solidly through a 78-run stand in the first session after Australia had elected to bat. But with three overs to go for lunch, Siraj switched to the Pavilion End at the Chinnaswamy Stadium for his second spell and took an immediate liking for it, picking up three wickets in two overs before the interval.
He then returned to take five more wickets from the same end to finish with 8 for 59, career-best figures and his third five-wicket haul in his last four first-class innings.
On a sunny morning, Siraj had been the more wayward opening bowler for India A. As Navdeep Saini bowled a tight opening spell, Siraj leaked boundaries off a predominantly short-of-length strategy. But when he returned in the 26th over, the length had gotten fuller, and the ball had begun to reverse swing. And those were the tools he used, first to swing a yorker back in at the left-handed Patterson’s off stump, and then to jag one away to take the outside edge of Travis Head’s bat.
On either side of the lunch break, Siraj got two more full inswingers in, one of which trapped Peter Handscomb first ball as he looked to flick across the line, and the other accounting for captain Mitchell Marsh, whose defence was of the nervous, static variety.
With those, the first two of what would be five ducks, Australia sunk to 90 for 4. Marnus Labuschagne, who stayed back for the four-day series only because of Renshaw’s injury, took his chance at No. 6. Despite being stuck on no score for close to half an hour, he looked assured in defence, apart from one over in which he seemed unable to pick Kuldeep Yadav’s wrong’uns.
But, having survived two lbw shouts on the back foot in that over, Labuschagne started putting in a more pronounced forward stride, with the immmediate result being that Kuldeep went flatter and wider. This fed three of Labushagne’s drives through extra cover for four. But after he had put up 114 for the fifth wicket with Khawaja, Siraj returned with another scorching yorker, this one swinging away from leg stump to knock out Labuschagne’s middle stump and complete the five-for.
Siraj’s bowling was one of two outstanding performances on the day, the other coming from Khawaja, who was largely flawless in a knock of 127. Khawaja looked fluid at the start of the innings as Patterson looked to feel his way into a role he’s played before but is not necessarily a specialist at. Apart from a dropped catch at gully early in Patterson’s innings, the openers dominated India’s bowlers.
Khawaja was particularly good against spin. When Kuldeep was brought in first-change, Khawaja went after him with three boundaries in two overs, including a delightful chip over extra cover with the turn. The wristspinner would finish with two wickets, but his 18 overs were barely troublesome, with inconsistent lengths allowing the batsmen to settle down.
Offspinner K Gowtham was used in a containing role, but Khawaja went after him nonetheless, preferring to plonk his leg down the pitch and ramp him fine with the incoming angle. He pulled the shot off successfully on a number of occasions and, for a man with a questionable reputation against spin, looked in complete control every time he played it. The only blemishes in his innings were two edges – an inside edge that brought up his century and the 100-run stand with Labuschagne, and the other his dismissal, when he chased a wide one from Siraj as he looked to push the rate with No. 11 Jon Holland.
Australia might have been encouraged by the signs of movement they saw through their innings, particularly since they picked only four specialists bowlers, one of whom is a spinner. But they didn’t see much of that in the 12 overs they bowled later. Karnataka openers Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth survived several menacing bouncers as they saw India through at their home ground, in the presence of about 50 local fans who cheered their every run.