Granted, this MCG track is not conducive to enterprising batting, although Australia’s top six is struggling against an attack that bowling to its plans.
“People are coming up with new ways,” Marnus Labuschagne, who top-scored with 48, said. “Today, they came up with a heavy leg-side field and bowled very straight and didn’t give us anything scoring options on the off-side.”
Former Test opener Michael Slater, noted for his dashing style, was critical of Australia’s unwillingness to take the game on.
“The pitches are doing enough to make batting uncomfortable at times but there comes a point in your career where if the ball is moving around, you have to have a technique firstly to survive. But I just question the intent of the Australian batting mindset at the moment,” Slater said on Channel Seven.
“Matty Wade started and then he’s looked the best all day. But have we got our top six thinking about scoring runs enough?”
Australia’s unhealthy reliance on Steve Smith, Warner and Labuschagne was again exposed.
Smith was not the team’s saviour after falling to Ravi Ashwin for the second time this series. Brought undone playing for turn that was not there in Adelaide, he met his demise here playing with the spin.
Four years ago, the leg slip (or gully) was a sign India had run out of ideas against the champion batsman but it now appears they are confident in their plans.
If Australia’s leading three do not score big runs, who does?
It’s not Joe Burns, whose place in the XI is again in the balance after being dismissed for a duck. Selectors will be alarmed at the manner in which the opener poked at a delivery he should have left.
Nor is it Cameron Green, who battled to 12, though to be fair the youngster is in just his second game.
It should be Travis Head, who, after two years in the baggy green, has served his apprenticeship but loses concentration just when it appears he is in for a long stay.
Matthew Wade, to his credit, tried to stamp his influence but after racing to 30 holed out to a rash shot to off-spinner Ashwin.
With four changes to their XI, there was an air of desperation in the Indian camp but almost every move they made at the selection table has returned a dividend.
Newcomer Mohammed Siraj, replacing the dependable Mohammed Shami, claimed two wickets on debut, including the key scalp of Labuschagne – one of three men caught at leg gully.
Ravindra Jadeja was brought in to give India extra depth with bat and ball, though his key involvement was holding his nerve to take a catch running with the flight to remove Wade.
And Shubman Gill appears a much safer option at the top of the order than Prithvi Shaw, surviving a tricky hour against the new ball to Australia’s high-class fast bowlers to see India to stumps without major damage.
They conjured a miracle for victory in Adelaide, they will need to work wonders to save Australia again.
“We’re in the game,” Labuschagne said. “We’ve certainly showed last game no matter how many you have you’re in the game.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald