When Travis Head made his international debut against Pakistan in Dubai, Australia were staring down the barrel. After consuming 175 balls for 72 and sharing a 132-run stand with Usman Khawaja, Australia had drawn the Test. In his first home Test, Head (61*) had to play with a calm head and he showed his mettle in tough conditions, sharing vital partnerships with the middle and lower order as his second fifty helped Australia reach 191/7 on an attritional day 2 in Adelaide against India on Friday. Head’s knock gains even more value, considering that only 17 boundaries were hit in the entire day and the discipline showed by the Indian cricket team bowlers, especially Ravichandran Ashwin, was fantastic.
Australia got off to the ideal start on day 2 when Josh Hazlewood removed Mohammed Shami first ball to dismiss India for 250. In overcast conditions, Australia’s batsmen, who have struggled in the past in similar conditions, once again floundered. Ishant Sharma opened the bowling and immediately reaped success when he went through Aaron Finch’s (0) defence to knock the off and middle stump out of the ground. That brought in Khawaja, tipped to be the leading run-getter for the series by former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, out in the middle to partner Marcus Harris, the debutant.
With Ishant and Jasprit Bumrah maintaining tight lines, the pair sought to play patiently. Khawaja, in particular, looked to do a repeat of Cheteshwar Pujara and he took his time to settle down. Harris, on the other hand, also displayed solid technique and capitalised on some rare loose deliveries to get going. However, Ashwin exploited the conditions well and he grabbed Harris’ wicket with a ball that drifted in and got the inside edge.
Following the lunch break, Ashwin turned the game in India’s favour. Shaun Marsh (2), who had struggled in the series against Pakistan, dragged a flighted delivery back onto the stumps to prolong his misery. Khawaja (28) was beaten by a sharp offbreak but India opted for the DRS. Replays showed that the bat was nowhere near the ball but it had brushed the glove.
Head guides Australia
With attack on this wicket proving difficult, Head and Peter Handscomb chose to make slow progress. The right-handed Handscomb, dropped for the Pakistan series, looked in good touch and he eased the pressure slightly by hitting Mohammed Shami for three boundaries. With Virat Kohli operating the pacers in short bursts, none of the Australian players got their eye in and Handscomb perished to Bumrah as he looked to guide a shortish ball to third man. Ishant increased the pain of the Aussies by getting rid of skipper Tim Paine for 7. This was the Delhi pacer’s 50th wicket against Australia.
India had their tail up but Head displayed incredible maturity. He was well-supported by Pat Cummins who displayed solid defence but with the introduction of the second new ball, Bumrah trapped Cummins (9) who shouldered arms to a delivery which swerved back in.
Head showed no signs of pressure and calmly batted out till stumps, ensuring Australia’s deficit was 59 at the close. The left-hander’s knock could make the difference in Australia’s result in Adelaide.