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AUS v IND, 4th Test: Centurion Labuschagne puts Australia in the driver’s seat on Day 1

Labuschagne starred in his home ground with a fine century as Australia post 274/5 on Day 1 of the Gabba Test.

The final session of the day was dominated by the hosts with Marnus Labuschagne and Mathew Wade Wade stitching up a 100-run partnership between them, which was then followed by a fine century by Labuschagne in the 64th over of the game at his home ground.

Soon enough, debutant Natarajan came to the rescue and got the much-needed breakthrough for India, thereby breaking the 113-run partnership. Natarajan picked up his first Test scalp as Wade departed for 45. He struck once again in the 66th over and this time got the big wicket of Marnus Labuschagne, who went for a pull shot which ended up as a top edge and into the hands of Rishabh Pant. 

Cameron Green later got a life on 19 when he was dropped by Shardul off his own bowling.

India Captain Rahane took the new ball in the 82nd over, but Cameron Green and Tim Paine batted with intent to bring up a 50-run partnership between them. 

Earlier in the day, Natarajan and Sundar realized their ultimate dreams of playing Test cricket for India. Crippled with multiple injuries to their frontline bowlers, the team management dug deep and came out with their Plan B. Natarajan, who had earlier made his ODI and T20I debut, had a fairytale ending to this Australian tour when he received the prestigious India cap numbered 300 from B. Arun, India’s bowling coach. Washington was second in line and he was presented with his cap from senior Tamil Nadu and India spinner, R Ashwin.

Both Natarajan and Sundar were asked to stay back after the white-leg format to assist Team India in their preparation for the long-format series. Two debutants meant Siraj, who made his Test debut only a couple of games back will be leading the attack in the Gabba Test. India also recalled Shardul Thakur, who had last played his only Test back in 2018.

The home team won the toss and expectedly opted to bat first.

Despite the inexperience in the attack, the visitors were right on target as Siraj struck in the first over of the match to set the ball rolling. Under-pressure to score big after a string of low scores, David Warner was caught brilliantly in the slips by Rohit Sharma, who dived to his right and took a sharp low catch. India bowled well with the new ball and had their second moment of delight when Thakur was introduced into the attack in the 9th over. The Mumbai pacer claimed his maiden wicket off just the first ball when an under-pressure Marcus Harris flicked the ball straight to Washington at square leg. This was Shardul’s only 11th ball in Test cricket.
While Natarajan had some initial issues with the popping crease, having overstepped twice, he was quite economical in his first spell in Test cricket. He bowled six overs in the first session, giving away just eight runs. With just 10 minutes left for Lunch, Rahane introduced Washington into the attack and he bowled three overs for four runs. India bowled 27 overs in the morning in which Australia scored 65 runs for the loss of two wickets.

The second session was a complete contrast as the home team took control. Helped early by India captain Rahane, who dropped the former on 37, Labuschagne made the visitors pay and pounced on every scoring opportunity.

For India, a familiar story again unfolded as Navdeep Saini complained of pain in his groin soon and returned to the dressing room. Although he did return after a while, a relapse of pain meant he was forced to return to the dugout once again. The Indian attack tried hard for a breakthrough but the closest they came to one was when Labuschagne survived again on 48. The right-hander nicked one to first slip but it fell short of Pujara, who was slightly wide. Labuschagne then brought up his fifty in 145 balls.

It was then that Washington struck and dismissed the free-flowing Steve Smith for his maiden Test wicket. Brought back into the attack, Washington had Smith caught at short mid-wicket by Rohit, who took his second catch of the day. Matthew Wade then joined Labuschagne and the two took Australia to 153-3 at Tea.

Brief Scores: Australia 274/5 (Marnus Labuschagne 108, Matthew Wade 45; T Natarajan 2/63) vs India