Labuschagne’s century sees Australia edge day one at the Gabba
India’s debutant bowlers show plenty of heart as fourth Tests gets off to gripping start
Marnus Labuschagne registered his fifth Test match century for Australia. Photograph: Darren England/EPA
Fourth Test day one: Australia 274 for 5 off 87 overs (M Labuschagne 108, M Wade 48, T Natarajan 2-63)
Marnus Labuschagne registered his fifth Test ton for Australia but India’s second-string bowlers featuring two debutants showed they were up for the fight on the opening day of the series decider in Brisbane.
With the injured Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja joining the lengthy list of absentees, India’s attack had four Test caps between them as Thangarasu Natarajan and Washington Sundar made their bows.
The pair made crucial interventions but Labuschagne made India pay for dropping him twice with an impressive 108 while a useful unbroken stand of 61 between Cameron Green and Tim Paine took Australia to 274 for five at stumps.
The hosts won the toss for the finale, with the series finely-poised at 1-1 following a climactic draw at Sydney, but were soon in trouble on 17 for two as openers David Warner and Marcus Harris were dismissed in single figures.
Sundar bowled three successive maidens in the morning session before striking after lunch with the first ball of his fourth over as Steve Smith, on 36, clipped to short midwicket to give the off-spinner his maiden Test wicket.
India captain Ajinkya Rahane dropped a dolly at gully to reprieve Labuschagne on 37 in the next over and, to compound matters, that would prove to be Navdeep Saini’s last ball of the day as he succumbed to a groin injury.
As he went for a scan, India gave another life to Labuschagne as Cheteshwar Pujara dropped a difficult chance at first slip when Australia’s number three was on 48. From there Labuschagne cashed in.
Labuschagne went to three figures for the first time in the series shortly before Natarajan swung the pendulum back in India’s favour with two wickets in two overs as Australia slipped to 213 for five.
Natarajan induced a miscued pull from Matthew Wade on 45, with a catch taken at mid-on, to end a 113-run stand while India’s left-arm seamer then snared Labuschagne, whose top-edge looped to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.
Despite Labuschagne’s contribution, Australia seemed like they might sink to a below-par first-innings score but Green and Paine made timely contributions — although the former benefited from another India error in the field.
Shardul Thakur spilled a return catch when Green was on 19 before the all-rounder went to stumps unbeaten on 28, while captain Paine, who was criticised following his conduct at Sydney earlier this week, was a useful foil.
Paine, who said “my leadership wasn’t good enough” as he clashed with Ashwin on a tense final day at the SCG, contributed an encouraging 38 to his unbroken partnership with Green to help Australia’s cause.