Half-centuries from Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris and Travis Head helped Australia to 277-6 on day one of the second Test against India on a very green Perth wicket.
While India enjoyed a fightback in the final session, taking the wickets of Head and Shaun Marsh, the opening act of the day saw Australia enjoy a spell of domination, with the Victoria pair of Harris and Finch combining for vital half-centuries.
The openers took on an all-pace attack with aplomb as Tim Paine opted for his side to bat, and with the sun beaming down it seemed that any residing hurt from the loss at Adelaide was to be extinguished quickly.
Harris looked in excellent touch in particular, driving elegantly through the covers, while Finch accumulated from the other end. The pair took Australia to 66-0 at lunch, and resumed their good work after the break.
A maiden half-century arrived for the left-hander with a clipped single from Mohammad Shami, while Finch reached the milestone with a pushed single through the covers from Hanuma Vihari. The Australian ODI skipper eventually fell lbw to Jasprit Bumrah to bring an end to a 112-run opening stand.
Nevertheless, the innings was an important one for the under-pressure batsman after falling for 0 and 11 in the first Test. Speaking to the media after the close of play, Finch mentioned the talk surrounding his place in the side.
“It was obviously a challenging wicket early and coming under the game with a bit of pressure with questions over whether I could bat or should bat and my technique,” said Finch.
It appears that some words with former Australia captain Ricky Ponting were helpful for Finch in helping him regain his touch, as the former batsman provided some crucial tips on the eve of the Test match on how to face Ishant Sharma, who proved a handful for Ponting on India’s tour of Australia in 2007/2008.
“It was actually really good because it was so simple, it was basically around covering my off-stump and just lining up slightly different with where I want to hit the ball with the ball swinging back in obviously.
“Ishant troubled him a little bit at the start of his career in Australia, troubled Punter [Ponting], moving the ball back in I think, so it was good to have someone to chat to who’s had to work through that and alignment and things like that.”
For all the discussion surrounding Ishant, it was Bumrah who caught the eye from India, with his dismissal of Finch followed by a number of unplayable balls that often left both the Australian batsmen and wicketkeeper flummoxed, such was the bounce and movement on offer.
“The length he has bowled so far has been outstanding, he comes from wide of the crease but can also move the ball both ways which is a huge advantage for him,” said Finch.
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“I think coming around the wicket to left-handers and straightening them so much is a huge asset to have. And then to the right-handers – we saw at the end with the ball to Tim [Paine] – the ball that took off and missed off-stump.
“He’s a good bowler, he knows his game very well, he doesn’t give you anything easy you have to feel as though you’re playing really well to keep him out but the scoring options aren’t there as much as you’d like to try and get on top of him. He’s just a world-class bowler which you expect.”
While Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb fell for single-figure scores, it was an improved effort from the Australian batsmen after the first Test, as Harris reached 70, while Shaun Marsh and Head scored 45 and 58 respectively.
Despite opting to enter the match without a frontline spinner, part-time off-break bowler Vihari was amongst the wickets for India, and caught the eye with the bounce he extracted from the pitch. Harris was on the receiving end of a snorting off-spinner that ripped the glove on its way to slip, with the opener caught by surprise by the leaping bounce.
With such evidence on display, Finch believes that Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon will play a significant role as the match progresses.
“I think the bounce that Nathan will get will be crucial on this wicket,” he said. “We saw when Vihari bowled that fuller length it was tough. There was some chances created for the left-hander, so I think Nathan will enjoy bowling on that.
“I think the bounce as much as anything – he talks about how much more effective he is when you do have that bounce – you can get guys caught on the crease, it brings in your bat-pad and your leg-slip so no doubt he’ll be excited for it.”