Openers stake their claim but Handscomb faces axe

Peter Handscombs position in the side hangs in the balance for the second summer in a row as Australia let Indias bowlers off the hook in the second Test in Perth.

Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris overcame a week of scrutiny to tame Optus Stadiums green mamba and stake their claims to be retained for the rest of the series, but their failure to stamp their authority on the game left the door open for India.

As the mercury hit 39 in the early afternoon, Virat Kohlis men made their move on Australias inexperienced line-up at a time they should have been feeling the pinch.

Opportunity lost: Peter Handscomb departs after falling for seven on Friday.

Opportunity lost: Peter Handscomb departs after falling for seven on Friday.Credit:AP

They edged their noses ahead momentarily late in the day as shadows made their way across the pitch, to the apparent irritation of Australias batsmen. Second-gamer Hanuma Vihari was the most unlikely of momentum swingers, returning handsome dividends for India selectors by capturing the wickets of Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh with his part-time off-spin.


The Indians had thrown their chips on pace, naming a four-pronged pace attack in the absence of Ravi Ashwin. It is only the third time in Test history that India have played four pacemen without a specialist spinner.

Australia, who went to stumps on 6-277, are in the game on a pitch already showing signs of variable bounce but should have been in a significantly stronger position.

"We would've taken that at the start of the day but you're never content in a position," Finch said.

Harris, Finch and Travis Head all failed to convert their 50s into hundreds, while Shaun Marsh also squandered his start.

Head lost his wicket moments after partner Tim Paine exchanged remarks with Virat Kohli, presumably over the five oclock shadow creeping across the pitch.

"If we can get them out below 320 we're right back in the game," Vihari said.

Handscomb could be batting for his place in the side in the second innings after being sensationally caught by Kohli for only seven.

Pressure on Handscombs place will escalate if selectors deem an all-rounder is necessary for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, which has been a batsmans paradise in recent years.

Though Usman Khawajas position in the side is safe, there will be concerns over his inability to turn over the strike, which builds pressure and is forcing him into rash shots. Here, he flayed at a wide ball from Umesh Yadav and was caught behind for five.

The elegant left-hander has made 41 off 205 balls this series, his strike rate of 20 well below a career mark of 50.

Despite predictions of a torrid first morning for batting on the venues lively debut Test strip, Paine backed his underperforming batsmen after winning the toss.

Opening salvo: Marcus Harris posted a solid 70 at the top of the order.

Opening salvo: Marcus Harris posted a solid 70 at the top of the order.Credit:AP

Harris and Finch fulfilled part of their job but departed without completing it. Their 112-run opening stand was only the third time Australia have reached triple figures for the first wicket this year.

Harris was the more impressive of the duo. He defended well, was judicious in the balls he left, and confident when he attacked.

Finch started brightly but was bogged down in the hour before lunch as India honed in on his front pad. Like many in the modern game, Finchs propensity to play his front foot to a white ball, which rarely swings on true pitches, creates issues when he confronts a red ball on a spicier deck.

He fell leg before wicket to a straight one from Jasprit Bumrah shortly after making his first half-century on home soil.

Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald

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