Fast-bowler Mitchell Starc could be keeping Australia's chances alive in the first Test against India after notching up a half-century off 48 balls.
Always a safe bet with the bat, Starc scored his ninth 50 in Pune as wicket after wicket fell before him, leaving the Aussies struggling for answers on the subcontinent.
After young opener Matt Renshaw also scored a half-century following mid-innings stomach issues, the wickets of Warner, Smith and both Marsh brothers left Australian fans thinking one thing -- Australia really, really could have used Usman Khawaja.
In the end Cricket is all about scoring runs. Starc is showing just that. No point in defending. #IndvAus— Ripson Joseph Lobo (@Ripsylobo12) February 23, 2017
Smith fell for 27 runs and Shaun Marsh continued his recent Test batting woes, being caught out off a surprising bounce on an unpredictable Indian pitch for only 16 runs in his first-ever match on the subcontinent.
The pair had taken things along to 1 for 113 half an hour after the break with the Aussies travelling steadily, before Marsh was dismissed.
In Marsh's last Test match against South Africa in Perth in November, he only managed to make 15 runs meaning his performance going forward in his first trip to India is sure to be under further pressure after Test selectors decided to leave Usman Khawaja out of the side.
With the Aussies sitting at 4 for 150 after the departure of Smith, some hard work was needed to keep on top of India in this first innings.
Earlier, Australia won the toss and chose to bat.
It was a good old-fashioned watchful start to the Test, but Australia's openers started to play a few shots after about 90 minutes. Dave Warner and Matt Renshaw took the score to 82 before Warner was bowled. He made 38.
The wicket is taking obscene amounts of spin, which surprised nobody. The big shock was that it was the pace of Umesh Yadav that breached Warner's defences.
Warner had been lucky to survive earlier when he was bowled around his legs, but it turned out to be a no-ball by, oh, just half a foot or so.
No such luck second time round.
Meanwhile, strange scenes ensued immediately after Warner's departure. Renshaw -- who had played brilliantly for his 36 runs -- followed his teammate off the field. He appeared to be in some distress, possibly related to a stomach issue, and retired hurt.
A certain Australian T20 and One Day specialist spinner certainly thought it was all rather amusing.
Can we get a hotspot on Renshaw pls ump?— Adam Zampa (@zamps63) 23 de fevereiro de 2017
Australia was 1 for 84 at lunch. There is confirmation that Renshaw has stomach issues, on what is his first visit to India.
Later on, he managed to take back to the pitch after Peter Hanscomb was given out on an LBW for 22 runs. Before being bowled by Ashwin, Renshaw scored a respectable 68.
At stumps on Day One Australia had managed to push past 250, finishing at 9 for 256.
Why can selectors never see the obvious things the public can see?
How can they not understand that Usman Khawaja should be retained in the Australian team for the first Test against India which starts on Thursday in Pune?
Do they not comprehend that OK, if you really, really want to ditch Khawaja because of a perceived weakness against spin bowling, then pick ANYONE but Mitchell Marsh?
This is all messed up and wrong, and allow us to quantify why. Mitchell Marsh has played 19 Tests. Usman Khawaja has played 23 Tests. For the sake of an apples-with-apples comparison, we'll compare Khawaja's last 19 Tests with Marsh's 19. Here goes.
- In 19 Tests, Mitchell Marsh has made 626 runs in his 19 Test career at an average of 23.18;
- In (his last) 19 Tests, Usman Khawaja has made 1531 runs at an average of 51.03;
- In summary, he has made MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY RUNS AT MORE THAN TWICE THE AVERAGE;
- In further summary, we give up.
Here's one more stat that might interest you, also involving the number 19. It is now 19 Tests since India lost a match. If Australia wants to beat them, they might do well to pick their best players regardless of conditions.
And another stat, also involving 19. Everyone will tell you that Usman Khawaja averages just 19 in Asia (19.16 to be exact). But he's only played four matches there. He's a better player now. NEED WE GO ON?
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