Australia A 290 for 6 (Marsh 86 *, Chief 68, Neser 44 *, Nadeem 2-64) v India A
Australia A advanced at the end of the first day of the second unofficial test as captain Mitchell Marsh led the recovery after his team had squandered another good start to fall to 140 by 5. In the company of Allrounders Ashton Agar and Michael Neser, Marsh raised his team to 290 for 6 on stumps with a century in sight.
Marsh had chosen to hit in what could be a crucial pitch as India A lined up with three spinners: Kuldeep Yadav, K Gowtham and Shahbaz Nadeem – on a court that would start taking the turn early the first day. Australia A did some team rotations, starting with Agar along with Mitchell Swepson, but he would probably be grateful for the reduction of his last hitting chances.
But it was not all ideal at the beginning of the day. Matt Renshaw, who returned from injury and is looking to bring permanence to his slot at the top of the order with the test team, was knocked down by a Rajneesh Gurbani winner in the second during the day. Travis Head then joined Kurtis Patterson, and the two lefties continued their good form career.
Patterson was as pleasing to the eye as he had been during the first Test in Bengaluru, using his reach to convert a long-length balls into driving deliveries. Spin was introduced early and from both ends, and when it was, Patterson seemed as confident as he began to walk the field without wasting time. His two best shots of the day were against Kuldeep and Gowtham, who were missing the ball. In each case, Patterson quickly went to the field to drill the ball past the bowler and onto the floor.
In the occasional reintroduction of a sealant, Patterson continued to use the same strategy, preferring to hit the ground or drive through an additional deck instead of going to the square. But his penchant for the disc would eventually lead him to his wicket, when Nadeem got one to submerge and turn through the door. It was the third consecutive chance that Patterson looked good without going over 50.
Head was aggressive from the start, chasing after Gurbani who was fighting for the rhythm and began to cut them down almost immediately after hitting Renshaw's stumps. By the time the spins appeared, Head was fluent and was not afraid to move to the top. Although, once again, he descended gently, running down the track against Kuldeep to be perplexed along the course. It was a particularly poor shooting choice, with a couple of overs arriving after lunch.
Peter Handscomb, meanwhile, continued his fight before falling to Nadeem. Handscomb tried everything: to use his feet, to sink into his fold, to push forward, without success during a rough entry. He then opted for the only option that remained against the turn, the sweep, but was lost when he was knocked down. Another day, he would have had a break before going so far in his innings, but a logistical delay had forced the players to stay on the field for half an hour more in the first session.
Marnus Labuschagne then managed to find the only fielder in the deep part of the leg side of a crawler and suddenly a repair job was needed.
Agar took care of that, timing sweetly from the first ball when he started driving through the line. He was the aggressor in the sixth-field position with Marsh, keeping the marker moving while his captain struggled to measure the rhythm of the surface.
Marsh could also have fallen during that rough phase, but R Samarth knocked him down in the leg ravine, having been squatting there for almost half an hour while India was trying to prepare Marsh with the incoming ball.
From that pardon came freedom for Marsh, who started a march and began using his reach and power to destabilize the spinners and force them into defensive strategies. Agar was stuck to his legs, but Neser replaced him with good results, entering the races almost identically to Marsh. Both players threw their hands in the complete deliveries, rarely left their fold to try to make the ball throw, and made it work when the ground began to flatten during the day.
At the end of the day, Nadeem was playing bowls on the wicket and outside the stump of the leg, Kuldeep went flat and fast, and the two fast bowlers gave him to suck Marsh in search of crushed blows after take the new ball. The sixth wicket pair was placed on a century stand and went to stumps after having taken control of the entire last session.