Ben Jones looks back on the key passages from the first day in Melbourne.
Umesh’s Wayward New Ball Spell
At the start of the day, India would have been keen to put the horrors of Adelaide behind them, and get themselves a foothold in this next Test. Jasprit Bumrah did so superbly, as you would expect, bowling an immaculate opening spell of five overs that yielded only six runs, and a wicket. However, the other end was not quite the same story, with Umesh Yadav struggling significantly with the new ball. He did find a substantial amount of swing – an average of 0.93 degrees across the opening session – but the most notable aspect of his bowling was a pronounced lack of control. Just 33% of his deliveries across the morning session were on a good line and length, significantly lower than the 67% which Jasprit Bumrah managed at the other end; doing something half as good as Bumrah is typically a decent starting place, but today Umesh suffered by comparison.
It’s not anything hugely new for Umesh, of course. In Australia he’s struggled consistently in his early spells, averaging 43 in his opening spells and then 86 in his second. His value in these conditions is shown eventually, averaging 19.10 in his third spells, but in the absence of Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma, India could really do with some new ball action from a relatively experienced bowler. If not, then the debutant Mohammed Siraj may be tossed the ball in the second innings.
Head Struggling to Leave the Ball
The most established partnership of the day came after India’s three new ball wickets, between Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne. The 86 runs they put on together represented almost half of Australia’s final total, and was responsible for arresting the collapse. However, Head – who eventually fell for 38 – had plenty to learn from his partner.
Across his innings, Head left just 15% of the deliveries he faced from seamers, a very low figure given the match situation and bowling he faced. Equally, his career leave percentage, 19%, is still much lower than the vast majority of Test batsmen, and stands in stark contrast to the man who he batted with for much of Day 1. Labuschagne, across his career so far, has left 29% of the deliveries he’s faced from seamers, and what’s noticeable is that these leaves are as often on line as they are length. The Queenslander has developed his game on the hard, bouncy surfaces we associate with Brisbane cricket, and you see it in his game at the Test level, but the way he leaves the ball tight into his off stump is just as pronounced. Head, rather different in their default intent, only left two deliveries solely on line, and played at the vast majority of deliveries outside off. He’s long had issues with making starts, then failing to capitalise – improving this area of his game could eliminate that.
Starc’s Superb Start
After the disappointment of the Australian batting performance, the evening session offered some excitement for the home fans in the MCG. India may have made it through to 36-1, but they faced some high quality pace bowling from Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, and would have been delighted to make it to the close relatively unscathed. Starc in particular started like a freight train, his first over to Mayank Agarwal responsible for the only wicket in the mini-session.
Starc’s radar, which is famously temperamental, was working perfectly from ball one, as he honed in on the top of off stumps, giving Agarwal no opportunity to ease into the innings. Almost every ball was hunting for an LBW or bowled, a hunt aided by the extravagant movement Starc was finding. An average swing of 1.8 degrees across the over is the fifth most he’s ever found in an opening over in Australia, and only one of the overs which recorded more swing were at a higher average speed. In essence, Starc has almost never started an innings with that level of pace, swing, and accuracy – Agarwal didn’t stand a chance.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.