Australia 6 for 277 (Harris 70, Head 58, Ishant 2-35, Vihari 2-53) v India
Contrasting half-centuries from local boy Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch and Travis Head helped Australia overcome a mini-collapse of 4 for 36 and made India feel the heat - both literally and figuratively - on a 39-degree day at the new Perth Stadium. Despite the late dismissals of Shaun Marsh (45) and Head (58) on a pitch where one ball exploded and the next rolled at shin height, Australia progressed to 6 for 277 at stumps on day one.
After India went into a Test without a frontline spinner for only the third time in their history, Harris and Finch, perhaps, made them rue the decision by putting on a 112-run opening stand. Although part-time offspinner Hanuma Vihari plucked out Harris and Marsh, India's attack lacked the control a fit R Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja could have provided. Their absence also ramped up the workload on Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, who had just sealed the Adelaide Test for India on Tuesday. Ishant even left the field in the post-tea session because of an abdominal strain before returning and stretching his body at the edge of the boundary.
The scorecard will tell you Ishant conceded only 35 runs in 16 overs, but he had struggled for rhythm with the new ball. His lengths weren't full enough and his lines didn't quite threaten the stumps either. That umpire Kumar Dharmasena pulled him up for a front-foot no-ball, when he had a fair margin of his foot behind the crease, perhaps, rattled him.
Finch, meanwhile, was rattled by a bevy of inswingers, including Shami's first ball, which drew an lbw appeal. Despite Finch getting pinged above the knee-roll, India chanced a review and lost it, with ball-tracking confirming that it would have bounced over the stumps.
Harris, though, at the other end was simply unflappable. He needed 16 balls to get off the mark, but once he bed in with a variety of strokes, he looked the part. He got cracking with a triptych of drives: back-to-back hits down the ground off Ishant and then one through the covers off Umesh Yadav. He was just as unflustered when Shami sent down a shooter that crept under his defensive bat and bounced twice before Rishabh Pant collected it in the 28th over. The next ball was scythed through cover-point and Harris continued to be severe on anything that was remotely full and wide outside off.
Kartik: Finch needed this innings to resurrect his Test career
Murali Kartik, VVS Laxman and Damien Martyn discuss the half-centuries from Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch
He raised his maiden Test fifty with a neat clip through midwicket and elicited warm applause from his coach Justin Langer, who has a stand named after him at this venue, and his father Kim Harris, who was in the grandstand. He could have been dismissed on 60 had KL Rahul latched onto a difficult catch at second slip off Shami.
Finch scored a less fluent fifty before Bumrah pinned him with a perfectly pitched inswinger. Bumrah then got on a roll with the old ball and had bouncers snarling at Khawaja's throat from around the wicket. Khawaja wore blows on his body, stabbed and fended his way to 1 off 25 balls against Bumrah. Something had to give, and that something was Khawaja throwing his hands at a short, wide ball from Umesh and nicking off for an utterly painstaking 5 off 38 balls. Three overs later, this place flew like the curator had promised. A back-of-a-length offbreak from Vihari took off like a NASA rocket and had Harris fending a catch behind to Pant for 70 off 141 balls.
Three for 134 then became 4 for 148 when Peter Handscomb slashed Ishant to second slip, where Virat Kohli who had replaced Rahul pulled off a blinding one-handed catch.
India's seamers tested Head and Marsh with extra bounce after the pitch seemed to have quickened up in the final session. They somehow weathered the burst and settled down, adding 84 for the fifth wicket. However, three overs before the second new ball was due, Marsh chased a wide offbreak from Vihari and sent a thick outside edge flying to Ajinkya Rahane for a chest-high grab at first slip.
Head pressed on to follow his first-innings 72 in Adelaide with an equally vital fifty here. However, he threw his wicket away when he went after a wide ball from Ishant and carved it to third man in the 83rd over. Tim Paine and Pat Cummins ushered Australia to stumps without any further damage and left India with a teasing thought: what might have been on a pitch where the ball is turning sharply for even a part-time spinner.