BRISBANE, Jan 15: The incredible underdog fairytale of Thangarasu Natarajan got better with his twin strikes on debut headlining a commendable effort from an inexperienced Indian bowling attack on the opening day of the final Test here.
Earlier, Marnus Labuschagne exhibited a batting masterclass en route to his century.
The Indian attack, with a collective experience of 3 Tests and 10 balls and 11 wickets in its kitty, was pitted against a batting line-up with 59 hundreds.
Australia were 17-2 but Labuschagne’s 108 from 204 balls – his fifth Test ton – saw them recover to close 274-5.
Labuschagne was dropped twice, on 37 and 48, as India’s fielders let down an inexperienced bowling attack.
Shardul Thakur also put down a sharp caught and bowled chance off Cameron Green late in the evening session.
After 87 overs, the two Tamil Nadu rookies Natarajan and Washington Sundar could hold their heads high for a lion-hearted effort on a good batting pitch in the absence of the injured Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah.
If tall off-spinner Washington set up a nice little trap to get rid of Steve Smith, Natarajan forced centurion Labuschagne and Matthew Wade to miscue their pull-shots after a 113-run stand which threatened to put India in a spot.
At stumps, Tim Paine and Cameron Green had added 61 runs for the sixth wicket and the visitors would need a few quick wickets to keep the first innings total within a manageable range.
Getting Labuschagne, who was on a rampage, with a short delivery ensured that Australia didn’t finish the day with a score close to 350.
Nobody would have blamed a Natarajan or a Shardul or “leader of the attack” Mohammed Siraj, all of whom toiled manfully throughout their multiple spells in a battle of unequals.
The inexperience was palpable as Thakur bowled a lot of full pitched deliveries which Labuschagne pounced on in the second and third sessions during an innings that had nine boundaries.
By far, Australia’s most consistent batsman in the series, Labuschagne batted in two gears during the day. He trusted the bounce, hit some lovely drives and was also ready to pull anything that was short.
Having lost four of their key players (Bumrah, Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Hauma Vihari) due to various injuries, Rahane couldn’t have lost a worst toss as Tim Paine elected to bat.
The new-look Indian bowling line-up kept it steady at the onset removing openers David Warner and Marcus Harris in the first session.
That Australia forced a half-fit Warner to play was evident when he had no apparent footwork while trying to drive an angular delivery from Siraj, which was brilliantly snapped by an agile Rohit Sharma diving to his right.
Thakur, whose debut against West Indies ended in a nightmare after bowling only 10 deliveries, achieved success, bowling the 11th one in the Test arena. It was a gentle outswing, an inswing for left-handed Harris, who instinctively clipped it straight to debutant Sundar at square leg. (Agencies)
D Warner c Rohit b Siraj 1
M Harris c Sundar b Thakur 5
Marnus L c Pant b Natarajan 108
S Smith c Rohit b Sundar 36
M Wade c Thakur b Natarajan 45
C Green 28*
T Paine 38*
Extras (B-4, LB-4, NB-5) 13
Total (5 wickets, 87 overs) 274
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-17, 3-87, 4-200, 5-213
M Siraj 19-8-51-1
T Natarajan 20-2-63-2
S Thakur 18-5-67-1
N Saini 7.5-2-21-0
W Sundar 22-4-63-1
R Sharma 0.1-0-1-0