Marcus Harris slammed his maiden fifty as Australia ended on 277/6 on day 1 of the Perth Test against India. (Image credit: Twitter)
When overseas teams came to Perth for a Test match, they would be greeted by the intimidating pace, bounce and the Fremantle Doctor wind of the WACA. The second Test between India and Australia saw some new things. The wicket was green and it provided movement and bounce. However, the day witnessed a triumphant homecoming for a youngster who was dubbed ‘mediocre’ by the current national coach. Marcus Harris gave a wonderful exhibition in front of his home fans and guided by fifties from Travis Head and Aaron Finch helped Australia to 277/6 at stumps on Friday. India might have been slightly undone by the nature of the wicket, considering the fact that Hanuma Vihari, their part-time spinner took two wickets. The Indians, though, encountered an Australian outfit determined to play more confidently after their defensive batting in the Adelaide Test.
Tim Paine won the toss and had no hesitation in batting. Finch and Harris, who had struggled in Adelaide, dug in and scored runs at a steady pace. Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were getting plenty of assistance from the wicket but both batsmen hung in. Harris, in particular, grew in confidence and he got going with two boundaries off Ishant. Umesh Yadav, who was brought in as the replacement for Ravichandran Ashwin who missed this game due to a side strain, looked rusty and Harris found the fence regularly.
India worked hard to get the wicket and Mohammed Shami’s LBW appeal against Finch was turned down. India took the referral but the ball showed to be missing the stumps. After the lunch break, Harris reached his maiden fifty and it was a triumphant return back to his home state. It was sweeter considering he made in front of Justin Langer, the current Australian coach and his coach in Western Australia where he had labeled him “mediocre with flashes of brilliance.” Finch reached his fifty and it was a welcome relief for him after his struggles in Adelaide. The 112-run stand was only the second century opening stand for Australia in Tests in 2018.
However, the partnership ended when Jasprit Bumrah trapped Finch LBW for 50. This galvanised India and they dried the runs up in the second session.
Middle order wobbles
Usman Khawaja was under immense pressure due to the sustained consistency off Bumrah and the batsman paid the price. Umesh, who had looked rusty, got the wicket when Khawaja (5) chased after a short and wide ball and the edge flew to Rishabh Pant. Harris (70), who had also weathered some fine bowling, was lured by a flighted ball from Vihari and the edge flew to Rahane at slip who took a sharp catch. Peter Handscomb (7) once again looked out of sorts and he tried to run a short ball from Ishant to third man but Kohli, standing at slip, leapt and took a stunning one-handed catch.
With Australia wobbling, it needed a solid stand from Shaun Marsh and Travis Head to revive Australia. Ishant and Umesh, operating in tandem, allowed the pressure to escape by bowling inconsistent lines and both batsmen found the boundary at will. The middle period, in which India were trying to get some cheap overs in before the second new ball, proved to be most productive for Australia as they scored at a healthy rate. Head, who hit a gritty 71 in the Adelaide Test, responded with his third fifty but the 81-run stand was broken when Marsh (45) edged Vihari to Rahane at slip to give the part-time offspinner his second wicket.
India took the second new ball and Ishant immediately achieved success when Head flashed at a short and wide ball to hole out to third man for 58. However, Paine and Pat Cummins ensured that there were no hiccups towards the end as Australia ended strongly. The day, though, would be remembered for Harris’ wonderful homecoming.