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Labuschagne leads Aussies



A century for Marnus Labuschagne helped Australia to a solid position at stumps on day one of the deciding fourth Test at the Gabba on Friday, the home side reaching 5-274 at the close of play.


On a day that saw India lose yet another bowler to injury, the visitors fought hard to reduce Australia to 5-213 after Tea, but an unbroken stand of 61 between Cameron Green (28*) and under fire captain Tim Paine (38*) left the home side just about ahead by the end of play.


India suffered a bitter blow before the match commenced with star bowlers Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain) and Ravichandran Ashwin (back) ruled out with injuries sustained in the third Test in Sydney, joining Hanuma Vihari (back) and Ravindra Jadeja (fractured thumb) in being ruled out of the Test.


It left India without any of their first choice bowlers from the first Test of the series in Adelaide, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami already home after their tours ended early because of injury.


Injury forced Australia to make a change of their own, with Will Pucovski ruled out with a shoulder injury and replaced by his state team mate Marcus Harris.


The left hander would partner David Warner at the top of the order, getting an immediate chance to impress when captain Paine won the toss and chose to bat first on a wicket that looked devoid of grass for the pacemen.


India struck inside the opening over when Warner edged Mohammed Siraj low to second slip, Rohit Sharma with a sharp take to send the out of sorts opener on his way for one.


Harris could only make five before clipping inclusion Shardul Thakur's first delivery to Washington Sundar at square leg, having made five from 23 balls.


Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith steadied Australia, both continuing their form from the Third Test as India's bowling became tired and loose on a warm Brisbane morning.


Smith was 30 and Labuschagne a more patient 19 at the break, but the Queenslander picked up the pace after the lunch break, taking on the short ball and looking equally adept on the front foot.


Labuschagne was afforded a life when he was dropped at gully by Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane on 35, Navdeep Saini leaving the field moments later with a groin complaint having been the unlucky bowler.


Sundar had his maiden Test wicket on debut when he claimed the prized scalp of Smith for 36, picking out Sharma at short midwicket to leave Australia 3-87.


Labuschagne had another life when an edge from the bowling of T Natarajan fell short of Cheteshwar Pujara at slip on 49, reaching a patient half century from 145 balls.


He began to up the tempo with Matthew Wade for company either side of Tea as India's under strength bowling attack began to struggle, Saini failing to return from what appeared to be a groin strain.


Labuschagne reached his fifth Test century and second on his home patch at the Gabba, bringing up the milestone with a cover driven all run four from his 195th delivery.


Natarajan ended Wade's punchy knock at 45, splicing a pull shot to Thakur at mid-on to continue the left hander's run of 13 consecutive innings without a half century.


Labuschagne (108) followed him back to the pavilion moments later as he also miscued a Natarajan short ball, the left arm bowler only initially selected as a net bowler for the tour with two quick scalps on his Test match debut.


Despite being down a bowler and losing the toss on a flat pitch, India were remarkably on top with Australia 5-213, but middle order pair Cameron Green and Tim Paine got through to the close without any further loss, Paine playing fluently for 38 and Green unbeaten on 28.


Natarajan claimed 2-63 from 20 overs in his first day of Test cricket, Thakur and Sundar also on the board for the first time in Test cricket while Siraj claimed 1-51 from 19 overs as the leader of the attack, playing his 3rd Test.


Remarkably heading in to the match India's makeshift attack had claimed just 13 Test wickets, compared to Australia's 1033, showing just how hard the visitors have been hit by injury in the series, Saini's participation in the remainder of the game in doubt having gone for scans before stumps.


That same patched up bowling line up will need early wickets on day two to stay alive in the match, Paine and Green's partnership holding the key in the opening session.


IMAGE: Perth Now.



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