The second day of the one-off Test between India and Australia at the Wankhede Cricket Stadium in Mumbai was surely an eventful one. The home side’s resilient batting display means that they still stand tall with a 157-run lead over Australia. Indian players will be heading to their dressing rooms with a glimmer of hope that there is a possibility that they can optimistically think of a historical win against the Aussies.
Putting the lead aside - all 157 of them, a lot happened on Day 2, from Richa Ghosh’s scintillating debut to two solid 100-run partnerships on a pitch with variable bounce where Ashleigh Gardner definitely enjoyed her time. While the Aussies made their best efforts to pull every trick that was up their sleeves, it was Deepti Sharma and Pooja Vastrakar in the end who survived with their resistance and grit.
Shafali Verma departed the crease on Day 1, courtesy of Jess Jonassen. But her opening partner was not in the mood of leaving until she completed her half-century to continue her good record against Australia. Smriti Mandhana put up a 50-run partnership with Sneh Rana, who was sent out to bat a little too earlier than her regular position as a night watcher.
Mandhana was coming on the back of an underwhelming performance in a one-off Test against England. Looking to make amends, she played some elegant shots on both off and on sides of the wicket. It was almost as if no Australian bowler had an answer to her knock. That, indeed, was the case as she would only get dismissed because of a mix-up between her and nervous debutant Ghosh. Mandhana failed to make it to the bowling end after a slight hesitation in responding to Ghosh’s call. But the southpaw scored 74 off 106 by the time she walked back to the pavilion.
20-year-old Ghosh was handed her maiden Test cap by vice-captain Mandhana on the opening day (December 21). For a player known for her aggressive style of batting and big hits, her defence today was undoubtedly a refreshing surprise for the fans. But like in the case of Shubha Satheesh, Ghosh showed that the faith the team management had on her wasn’t unfounded.
Ghosh entered the crease to replace Rana, and the wonderkid from West Bengal marked her debut in style. But there’s no denying that luck was also on her side. Ellyse Perry dropped the chance for what could have been an early dismissal for the India batter. Post that, Ghosh batted on for quite some time, dispatching loose deliveries for fours and defending well against spin.
Her partnership with the in-form Jemimah Rodrigues crossed the 100-run mark before she lost her wicket to Kim Garth for 52, ending a fine innings.
Just like she loves jamming with a guitar in her hands, Jemimah Rodrigues jammed today with a bat in her hands. Only one Test old, the Mumbaikar picked up from where she left off against England by playing with a sound technique and sweeping the bowlers away as the opportunity prevailed.
Rodrigues put on 113 crucial runs together with Ghosh before the latter’s dismissal. Despite looking in good shape, Rodrigues’ innings ended during the phase where India lost four wickets for 14 runs. Her aggressive cover-drive went straight into the hands of Annabel Sutherland and she had to go at 73 runs off 121 balls.
However, the right-hander displayed enough gusto and style while she combined drives through the off-sides and sweeps to great effect to play an innings of paramount importance.
It is safe to say that Australia didn’t have the best day in terms of fielding. There were several instances where runs could have been prevented or saved, but Alyssa Healy’s side didn’t make it easy for themselves.
As the ball edged through the slips, Beth Mooney failed to stop the ball on a couple of occasions, allowing it to go straight to the boundary. Tahlia McGrath’s misfield led to two boundaries for Mandhana and another misfield from the vice-captain gifted more runs to India.
Most importantly, Perry’s dropped catch is something the Aussies definitely would regret and it could also come back to haunt them in the remaining two days as it was the stand between Ghosh and Rodrigues that stabilised India’s innings after Mandhana’s run out. Ghosh was only batting on 14 and she lobbed a simple catch to the Australian all-rounder at mid-off, who moved well but failed to hold on to the catch.
Pitch playing tricks
It was evident that the Wankhede Stadium’s red soil pitch showed a few tricks throughout the game so far but not to the extend of being unplayable. Even on Day 1, the uneven bounce assisted the Indian spinners significantly with skipper Healy being the prime victim.
The same was the case on Friday as well and it might have affected Indian batters even more than the impact it had on the Australian batters. Ashleigh Gardner and the other spinners enjoyed a good time by taking advantage of the pitch with variable bounce. The uneven bounce got the better of Harmanpreet Kaur and Yastika Bhatia as both of them suffered from early dismissals at the hands of Gardner with the ball keeping low.
The ball kept low on a few more occasions, making it tough for the Indian batting lineup. But to India’s credit, batters made great adjustments to bat through the day despite the mini-collapse in between.
Determined Deepti and Valour of Vastrakar
After losing important wickets of Harmanpreet, Bhatia and Rodrigues, pressure started to mount on India as they had to set up a solid lead on a track that could make life difficult in the fourth innings.
In came the allrounders Deepti and Vastraka after their performances with the ball on the first day. The duo batted with determination and grit with some patience and once again showed that India’s lower order can contribute significantly with the bat. They were solid in defence against a tiring Gardner and other bowlers didn’t trouble them much either.
Deepti remained unbeaten at the end of the day on 70 with Vastakar in company. The latter played the second fiddle and added 102 runs so far in the unbroken stand. The hope visitors had in restricting India to a slender lead diminished with every passing overs and left India in the driving seat at the end of the day.