And it’s raining again
They’re going off. Very light rain, it looks like, the Indians are making their way off very slowly. The ground staff belted to the middle but no one else was fussed. Now the umpires are walking back, they didn’t even make it off the ground. No umbrellas.
66th over: Australia 188-2 (Labuschagne 78, Smith 42) Almost caught at leg gully! Siraj bowls straight, Labuschagne whips it away. Airborne, but to the left of the fielder who dives across but still ends up a metre or two short. The batsman profits by four. Siraj drops a deep square leg back, either to protect that boundary or to give him the option of bouncing Labuschagne. Or, porque no los dos? Labuschagne uses that gap to score a single.
14 overs until the new ball.
65th over: Australia 183-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 42) Left-arm spin to Smith was the vogue for a while, before the leg slip tactic came in. It was always a bit of a myth, really: he faced a lot of left-arm spin for a while so he got out to it a few times. But Jadeja will be hoping. He’s bowling outside the off stump for the most part, wanting to draw Smith’s shots through that side of the ground. Maiden over. There’s very light rain falling at the SCG.
64th over: Australia 183-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 42) Siraj hits Smith on the pad and convinces Rahane to go upstairs, but that struck far too high and was going over. That was a shrug-of-the-shoulders review from the captain, might as well. It was excitement from the bowler at the plan nearly working, I suppose. For Smith they’ve got a very short straight mid-on, plus a midwicket, a forward square leg, a leg gully, and a long leg. Only four on the off side: slip, gully, point, cover. Which is why Siraj keeps bowling in at the pads, and hitting Smith on the pad is a minor triumph in itself.
63rd over: Australia 182-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 41) Ravindra Jadeja on to have a bowl. Left-arm orthodox, around the wicket to the right-handers, and Jadeja is immediately giving the ball flight. He often bowls quite fast and flat, but not today, wanting to tease these batsmen a little bit. Each finds a single.
62nd over: Australia 180-2 (Labuschagne 72, Smith 40) Siraj bowls a rare one outside the off stump, and it also draws a mistake from Labuschagne, edging it into the gully on he bounce. Something on offer for the bowlers, still, but they haven’t been able to strike the blow that counts.
61st over: Australia 179-2 (Labuschagne 71, Smith 40) Bumrah to Labuschagne, still operating with this straight line at the batsman, and Labuschagne doesn’t time it that well when he plays a leg glance, airborne and again a catcher in the right spot would have snaffled that.
60th over: Australia 178-2 (Labuschagne 70, Smith 40) Siraj to Marnus now, who drives down through mid-on and gets through for three runs. Smith is still moving across his stumps and unable to beat a strong leg-side field, the square leg diving across to stop the ball.
59th over: Australia 175-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 40) A testing over from Bumrah to Smith. Gets one to leap off the surface, hitting the splice of Smith’s bat and startling him, the batsman flinching back from the bounce. Then another that decks in and hits pad, but too high. Bumrah gives a cursory appeal, as if to just record in the minutes of the meeting that he did indeed beat the bat.
58th over: Australia 175-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 40) Siraj to Smith, who is very watchful this over, blocking him out from the crease with the ball on a length. When Siraj goes short this time, Smith does make contact with the pull, taking two runs. Follows with a single to keep strike.
57th over: Australia 172-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 37) Bumrah from the other end. Starts the day with a half-volley and Smith drives it through the covers for four. Ready to pounce as soon as the error was there, even if it was at the earliest opportunity. To compound Bumrah’s annoyance, Smith pushes a run to cover next ball. But Bumrah responds to Labuschagne, delivering an absolute beauty with the old ball: angling in, seaming away despite the wear on the ball, beating the edge.
56th over: Australia 168-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 33) What a start. Mohammed Siraj starts the day, the fast bowler in his second Test, and he starts in at Smith’s body. Working that angle in. After a few balls Siraj bombs in the bouncer, and it takes off! Smith takes it on. But doesn’t make contact at all. It beats him, zipping through past his bat and past his head. A wake-up ball. Then Siraj goes in at the ribs and it bounces high again! A real spike of bounce, and Smith fends it from under his armpit away through leg slip. India have a leg gully, squarer, rather than that finer position, and so Smith gets away with it and gets a run. Imagine if he’d been caught around the corner again…
If you want some more detail about Day 1, here’s me and OBO colleague Adam Collins taking a wander around the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. (We can’t go to Sydney because then we won’t be allowed out again. State border restrictions and all that.)
Here’s the brief Reuters report on Day 1, if you’re looking to catch up.
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Good morning from the eastern coast of a southern country. It’s day two, how about that. We didn’t get a full day one for the Sydney Test, but we did get 55 overs in after a long rain delay. Which means that play will start half an hour early today and every day forever from now on to make up a bit of that time.
For Australia, today is Steve Smith day. He came out yesterday and looked much more himself. Middled a few, hit some boundaries, got to 31 not out overnight. He’ll be batting with Marnus Labuschagne on 67. The wickets to fall yesterday were the openers, Warner for 5 and Pucovski on debut for 62, in an innings that was impressive at times while also containing a good slab of luck.
Alright, shall we? It’s 166 for 2, and India need incisions.