Australia's surprise choice to drop Travis Head for the first Test in India could potentially backfire further on the visitors, with Matt Renshaw sent for scans on his knee after day two in Nagpur. Already on the back foot after a poor performance with the bat in the first innings, Renshaw's potential injury would presumably open the door for Head, Australia's most prolific batsman during two Test series at home, to return to the side.
Renshaw was absent from the field for several hours on day two, but eventually returned to take the field once again before stumps. India will resume at 7/321 on day three, holding a 144 run lead.
“I don’t know how severe it is but it’s not a great sign that he’s not on the field,” Fox Sports commentator Mark Waugh observed of Renshaw's absence. “I hear that he’s been taken to the hospital for precautionary scans or X-rays, so that’s the last thing Australia need, another injury to one of their players and top-order batsmen.”
Renshaw made an impressive comeback to the Test level after being dropped from the side in 2018, honing his game in first-class cricket until he earned his way back into the side. Opportunities have been few and far between though, with Renshaw facing just 11 deliveries in his Test comeback against South Africa before Australia's innings was declared.
His stay at the crease in Nagpur was equally short-lived, but this time it was because Renshaw was well beaten by a terrific delivery from Ravindra Jadeja, which trapped him LBW for a golden duck. He was far from the only Australian batter who failed to fire, with openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja dismissed for one run.
Renshaw was selected in part to offer a point of difference, with India prepared for Australia's complement of left-handed batters. Head, whose poor overseas average reportedly worked against him at the selection table, would likely return to the side should Renshaw be held out for the second Test in New Dehli.
Injuries and bad luck have frequently disrupted Renshaw's Test career. Even his Test return in Sydney earlier this year was derailed slightly after he tested positive for COVID-19 the day before it was due to begin.
Renshaw's horror luck in Australian whites:
2017 SCG Test vs PAK - concussion
2017 Pune Test vs IND - stomach bug
2018 Dubai Test vs PAK - concussion
2023 Sydney Test vs SA - Covid-19
2023 Nagpur Test vs IND - knee complaint
— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) February 10, 2023
Matt Renshaw has just left the ground for scans on his right knee. He reported slight soreness before the team warm-up. Was off the field to ice the injury. A team spokesman says both ice and scans are precautionary. #INDvAUS
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) February 10, 2023
In 3 balls… India scored more runs than Warner, Khawaja, Renshaw, Cummins, Murphy, Lyon and Boland combined.
— Nat Yoannidis (@NatYoannidis) February 10, 2023
Drop head for his poor record in Asia - even tho he’s never played a test in India. Yet keep Warner and bring in renshaw and Handscomb who all average < 30 in India. #timetogoselectors #INDvsAUS https://t.co/n0PhwpekaX
— David Polkinghorne (@Super_Couch) February 9, 2023
Todd Murphy spares Australia's blushes with terrific Test debut
Australia's newest spin sensation Todd Murphy has helped keep the tourists alive in the first Test but India remain in full control. After just seven first-class games, Murphy became the 35th Australian to take a five-wicket haul on Test debut after knocking over the key pillars of India's star-studded batting line-up.
Australia would need to pull off one of the all-time great comebacks to win from here but at least they have a slight pulse despite Steve Smith dropping two genuine chances on Friday. India opener Rohit Sharma blasted a masterful 120, his first Test century as captain, in the city of his birth to the delight of his home crowd.
But until star allrounder Ravi Jadeja (66no) came to the crease, Australia had been able to contain the bulk of the damage to off Sharma's bat. Jadeja and Axar Patel (52no) will resume on Saturday after putting on a vital 81-run partnership.
The hosts appeared to be racing towards building an unassailable lead when they began on Friday at 1-77, but Murphy struck with the first four wickets of India's innings. The 22-year-old dismissed nightwatchman Ravichandran Ashwin and prolific No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara before lunch, having removed KL Rahul late on day one.
Murphy - and his family, who flew over to India after departing the Victorian-NSW border three days ago - will never forget his first ball after lunch. The Victorian, who was picked with a first-class average of 25.20, dismissed Virat Kohli, India's former captain and one of the finest batters of all-time.
Wicketkeeper Alex Carey hung onto a tough chance after fumbling the ball and Kohli was gone for just 12. Murphy's fifth wicket came after an unconvincing DRS referral but it was good enough to dismiss India wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat.
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