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Australia will need to rely on another bailout from its bowlers after the hosts failed to post 200 runs against India in the first innings once again on Saturday.

Not one Australian made a fifty, leaving Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon with plenty of work to do in the Boxing Day Test — and selectors with a big batting problem to solve moving forward.

These are the talking points after day one of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

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AUSTRALIA FACING A SECOND INNINGS BAT-OFF

Joe Burns is still firmly in the firing line.Source: Getty Images

Matthew Wade might’ve thrown away a golden opportunity to push his case for the opening spot in the third Test.

But it’s Joe Burns who is yet again front and centre after failing in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test.

Burns might’ve reached his half-century at the Adelaide Oval in the final innings, but it’s his runs in the first innings of games that are of concern.

His last five innings when Australia have batted first have resulted in scores of 4, 9, 0, 18 and 9.

Over a third of Burns’ innings in Test cricket have been single figure scores with 16 of his 39 innings being nine runs or less.

“The heat is going to be on. The heat is going to be on all of them… the focus was clearly on Burns before the first Test, he just did enough to get here,” Adam Gilchrist told foxsports.com.au.

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Quack! Burns out for Boxing Day duck

1:01

“It’s just the first innings scores, since 97, 98 in the first Test last year he barely got to double figures of a Test match. That’s going to weigh heavily against him.

“We saw in the second innings in Adelaide he did enough, but it’s definitely going to be tough.”

Wade’s aggressive knock of 30 came from just 39 balls, dancing down the wicket and skying a Ravi Ashwin off-spinner into the clouds, before it was caught by Ravi Jadeja.

His positive innings was in the face of some tough conditions for the batters as the MCG wicket provided plenty for the Indian bowlers.

With David Warner’s impending return, Justin Langer will have a decision to make.

However, Gilchrist doesn’t believe the duo’s left handed nature makes them easier to be dismissed.

“You get your best batters in position, however it falls in terms of left hand, right hand it doesn’t matter you just get your best combo,” he added.

HEAD YET AGAIN TEASES IN THE MIDDLE ORDER

Close, but no cigar again for Travis Head.Source: AFP

It was another start for Travis Head, who failed to convert it into a big score.

After doing the hard yards, Head was caught behind the wicket in the gully for 38, throwing away a certain half century.

Unlike Burns at the top, Head only has five scores in the single figures across 30 innings, indicating he does the dirty work to get through the most difficult scenarios.

“He keeps teasing us,” Gilchrist said.

“(There are) so many fans of him, supporters and plenty of them up here in our commentary box and I’m one here. I really like the guy. Like his cricketing ability, terrific young fella.

“(He) just continues to tease. He’s probably teasing himself and that’s what would be hurting himself. He would feel like he is in control of a situation like that and then finds a way out.

“That would play on his mind and he would make sure he rectifies that if not in the second innings or whenever he gets another chance.”

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Marnus Labuschagne, what a review!

1:11

Yet again, Head was caught edging off the fast bowlers, a key issue for the left-hander.

“It will be (an issue) because teams will target that and teams will know to target that so you need to work out a way through that in a positive sense or tightening up a defence,” he said.

“I thought he looked quite compact and composed on the back foot for the first 50 or 60 balls which is the vulnerable time.

“It was quite odd when he is into the 30s and feeling so good.”

Head might’ve scored a century in the same Boxing Day match in 2019, but without a huge score in the series, he remains a far from certain starter in the rest of the series as other players press their case from outside the playing XI.

LABUSCHAGNE FORGING A RARE SKILL

Marnus Labuschagne has made something of a bad situation.Source: AFP

Like most of his teammates, Marnus Labuschagne hasn’t been firing on all cylinders this summer.

The Australian No.3 was unstoppable last year against Pakistan and New Zealand but has looked scratchy in his three innings against India.

On Saturday, he was once again unconvincing — albeit stubborn — and fell just short of a half century on 48, taking his tally for the Test summer to 101 runs at 33.66.

But while Labuschagne’s scores have hardly been of note, his ability to grind and make something of a bad situation have.

In other sports, it’s often said that a great team can find a result even when it plays poorly — and something similar could be applied to Labuschagne.

It took this peach to remove Marnus

1:08

If the Queenslander is putting up scores in the forties on an off-day, then India should be worried about what he can do on an on-day.

In both Adelaide and Melbourne, Labuschagne proved to be a tough nut to crack — he soaked up 119 balls in the first innings in Adelaide and 132 at the MCG on Saturday. His stands in both innings proved to be important with wickets tumbling elsewhere.

So far this summer, Australia’s other failing batsmen have largely failed to chip in with middling first innings scores.

In the first innings, Joe Burns has made 8 and 0, Matthew Wade 8 and 30, Steve Smith 1 and 0 and Cameron Green 11 and 12. Travis Head made 38 at the MCG to offer something more substantial to the Australians, although he only made 7 in Adelaide.

While Labuschagne will be far from pleased with his scores of 48 and 47, he has at least given Australia a leg to stand on.

MCG PITCH PRODUCES A CHALLENGE

The MCG pitch caused plenty of headaches on day one.Source: News Corp Australia

The MCG was famously left on notice in January 2018 after the ICC rated the pitch was poor following a dull draw between Australia and England.

Since then, the ground has dramatically improved, with results against India (2018) and New Zealand (2019).

And on day one of the 2020 Boxing Day Test, 11 wickets fell in tough conditions as Australia was tested.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, it has been good watching. It’s been a great spectacle of ball moving and challenging the bat,” Gilchrist said.

“Not heavily in favour of a team bowling first, 11mm of grass is long. It was 8mm in Adelaide, so we’ve helped the bowlers out. A pitch that has come under heavy criticism for a number of years, it improved last year, it has been really entertaining.

“Well done given the build up and the year. The fact this venue was shut down for over six months with no-one here, the pitch is prepared off site, really impressive.”

In the opening session, there was a false shot percentage of 16 per cent, indicating how tough the Australian top order had it.

False shot percentage today:

Before lunch – 16%
After lunch – 4%#AUSvIND

— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 26, 2020

Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav worked together to get movement, seam and bounce, with Ashwin getting plenty of turn early in the contest.

Bumrah’s bowling was in a certain channel making it tough for the batters to decide whether to play or leave the ball.

India’s field placements helped created chances with the tourists doing plenty of homework, making immediate inroads with plenty of fuller deliveries compared to the first Test in Adelaide.

Remarkably, Ashwin was left bemused after a off-spinner rose and struck Marnus Labuschagne on the pad, with a review finding the ball looping over the stumps.

IF IT SEAMS, IT SPINS

Ravi Ashwin was brilliant on day one.Source: Getty Images

As Shane Warne always says; if it seams, it spins — and that certainly proved to be true on day one of the Boxing Day Test.

Australia’s openers — particularly Burns — had a tough time settling into the match with the ball talking at the hands of Jasprit Bumrah in the day’s early stages.

But with the once-lifeless MCG pitch offering some bounce and grip early, stand-in India captain Ajinkya Rahane didn’t waste any time throwing the ball to his off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin.

The decision proved to be a masterstroke.

Ashwin had no issues in taking advantage of the conditions with his dip and turn putting the pressure on Australia well inside the first session of the Test.

Ashwin sends Smith for a DUCK

0:29

Ashwin bowled just the 12th over of the day and struck with his fifth ball when he enticed Matthew Wade into a big swing which he topedged. His next over produced an even bigger wicket with Steve Smith failing to navigate the spin as he glanced straight to leg gully.

The first 25 overs saw an unusual 11 overs of spin, which is the most seen at the start of a Boxing Day Test since 1985, according to the CricViz Analyst.

Ashwin continued to land the ball on a dime all day and struck again in the final session when he ripped one off the pitch to Tim Paine, who fell into a near-identical leg side trap to Smith.

The 34-year-old finished the innings with figures of 3-35 across his 24 brilliant overs that were hit for just 1.46 runs on average.

Spin for Ashwin and Jadeja, and it’s meant that unusually for the MCG we’ve seen plenty of early spin.

11 of the first 25 overs have been bowled by spinners – that’s the most for the start of an MCG Test since 1985. #AUSvIND

— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 26, 2020

That ball ragged. Ashwin’s wicket delivery to Paine spun 5.7 degrees off the pitch – no ball Ashwin bowled to Paine spun more. #AUSvIND

— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 26, 2020



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