Australia A 243 & 42 for 1 (Khawaja 16*, Head 13*) lead India A 274 (Bharat 91*, Agarwal 47, Neser 4-61, Holland 3-89) by 11 runs
India A didn’t make full use of the momentum they had built overnight, needing a lower-order resistance shepherded by Maharashtra’s Ankit Bawne to take a slender lead against Australia A on the second day. Bawne made an unbeaten 91, his third fifty in as many innings, and put India A ahead by 31 after they had collapsed to 127 for 5 in the first session.
India’s batting in the morning followed the trend of Australia’s innings at the start of the first day. Openers Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth stretched their overnight stand from 41 to 62 inside four overs before Agarwal was caught behind to fast bowler Michael Neser, three short of his fifty.
Samarth and Abhimanyu Easwaran, of similar builds and batting styles, put up a 30-run stand that looked to have frustrated Australia, as evidenced by constant field changes while they were batting together. But left-arm spinner Jon Holland broke that stand when he trapped Samarth on the back foot. The batsman took all of 30 seconds to process that decision, staying put in his crease long after Australia had started celebrating, suggesting he might have got an inside edge.
There was no such ambiguity when the next wicket fell. After 29 overs, the ball had shown signs of reverse swing, just like it had on the first day. And just like India had done during that period, Australia switched Neser, their best bowler on the day, to the Pavilion End. He hooped a length ball back into India captain Shreyas Iyer, whose leave was made for the ball that goes through straight, wide outside off; his feet planted, failing to cover the late movement, giving Neser a clear view of both off and middle stump. Neser chose the top of off.
It was an early sign that a collapse could be around – once again in full congruence with the first day – before lunch. And soon enough, India showed the exact kind of panicky cricket that comes with such a situation. Easwaran, set and solid by now on 36, jabbed one gently to extra cover’s left and took off for a run that could have been completed with a confident call. Instead, both he and Bawne came halfway down the pitch before seemingly deciding against the run. Marnus Labuschagne had completed a clean pick up by then, and whacked the stumps down with fury to end a promising innings.
At this point, Holland started to find respect from the Indian batsmen and it resulted in a tight sequence of landing the ball exactly where he wanted it. A lot of them were on a length on off, fizzing past both the outside edge and the off stump, until finally, he got one to spin from middle and knock over KS Bharat’s stumps.
At 127 for 5, K Gowtham walked in and drove handsomely in the lead-up to lunch, before returning to show the same confidence. He ha only just put up a fifty stand with the sedate Bawne, when he played all around a full delivery from Holland to fall for a breezy 34-ball 31.
Bawne then started opening up to some degree, happy to plant his big stride in against Holland and sweep him against the turn. But his innings was still tilted towards caution, even as Kuldeep Yadav showed remarkable maturity at the other end. For the first 30 balls of his innings, Kuldeep copped multiple bouncers on his body, one of which required a visit from the physio. He was pinned down to one end as Brendan Dogget sought to repair his expensive figures, by spearing them in from around the wicket. But, having survived that barrage, Kuldeep made use at the other end, visibly more comfortable against the spin of Holland. His 18 was crucial to a 47-run stand that put India’s deficit under 20.
Bawne’s best came after that, as a shaky tail looked highly susceptible, particularly with the new ball looming. He brought up the lead with a ramped six over first slip, opened up his stance to drill the next ball past mid-off and carted Holland over his head before the new ball arrived.
When it did, Bawne was helped by Mitchell Marsh’s persistence with Holland, and the non-spinning hard ball made for easy hitting – in one over, Bawne hit Holland over both long-on and long-off. He would fall short of a hundred, however, when No. 11 Ankit Rajpoot wasn’t alert to a single early in the over. Neser finished with four wickets, Holland with three.
Australia had just over an hour at the end of the day, a period that began with a confident Kurtis Patterson picking up classical boundaries through the off side. But once again, when he was looking good, Patterson fell to Siraj. Patterson was grabbed down leg side by Bharat as he looked to flick one off his thigh.
Khawaja then got down the track against Gowtham consistently enough to negate the offspinner, even spanking him on the up for a six over extra cover, before Rajpoot nailed him down to one end with three maidens through constant probing in the corridor. Khawaja was a bit more fidgety outside off in this innings, but in Travis Head’s company, he took Australia through to stumps at 42 for 1, with a lead of 11.