Travis Head has given Australian selectors a massive call to make when David Warner is fit to return to the starting XI, after an impressive batting display in the second Test against India in Delhi. Opening for the first time in his Test career, Head (39no) put the Aussies in a strong position going into day three after Nathan Lyon's five-wicket haul helped bowl the hosts out for 262.
Head made the selectors' decision to drop him for the first Test look silly, as he stepped in admirably for Warner, who was ruled out of the remainder of the match with concussion. Scans also later revealed that Warner suffered a fractured elbow after copping a nasty blow in the first innings, where he made a scratchy 15 runs before being caught behind.
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Where Warner looked uncomfortable and out-of-sorts having taken 22 balls to get off the mark in his first innings, Head was the complete opposite against India on day two as he helped the Aussies take a 62-run lead into Sunday. Head's opening partner Usman Khawaja was the only batter to fall for Australia in a tricky final session on day two, removed for six off a sharp catch from Shreyas Iyer at leg slip.
Head was controversially dropped for the humiliating opening Test defeat in Nagpur - largely based on his poor record in the subcontinent - but looked at home batting at the top of the order and playing aggressively like he does in Australian conditions. The left-handed batter bludgeoned 5 fours and a six in a superb knock on Saturday, to put the visitors in a position to set themselves up for victory on day three.
Travis Head is NOT messing around 💪
📺WATCH: #INDvAUS on Ch. 501 or stream via @kayosports : https://t.co/5tR1yi4JYb
🔢MATCH CENTRE: https://t.co/Sdxso3WyhT pic.twitter.com/PaDBEF9G06
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) February 18, 2023
Aussie selectors had denied speculation they were considering Head in place of Warner at the top of the order before the second Test, however, the former's display has only seen those calls grow louder from fans. Warner averages just 21.78 in India after scores of one and 10 in the Border-Gavaskar series opener.
Warner's position at the top of the order was already under question before this series, with fans also concerned about his form in England, ahead of this year's Ashes series. The veteran opener boasts a meagre 26.04 from 25 Test innings in England, has never scored an Ashes century overseas and was removed by English paceman Stuart Broad in seven out of his 10 innings the last time he batted there.
While no one can deny Warner's toughness after he batted on with a fractured elbow in the first innings in Delhi, the stark reality is that Head has already made more runs in his sole innings opening the batting for Australia, than Warner has in three innings so far this series. The situation has inevitably led to calls for selectors to give Head an extended run as opener, at the expense of Warner.
They say necessity is the mother of all inventions. Travis Head's 39no is exactly the type of rollicking innings Australia have craved at the top of the order in India. It wouldn't have happened if David Warner had not been subbed out. #INDvAUS
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) February 18, 2023
Travis Head should have replaced Warner for this Test. It happened eventually anyway and he’s played a gem of a knock so far in a position suited to him in India. Potential career defining innings for him tomorrow #INDvAUS
— Tristan Lavalette (@trislavalette) February 18, 2023
Travis Head probably just ensured we won't see Warner again #INDvAUS
— The Wellerman Comes (@GregPankhurst) February 18, 2023
Just wonderful Test match batting from Travis Head. Controlled aggression on a pitch where that has to be the method. Strong day from the Aussies. Let’s bring it home tomorrow 👊🇦🇺 #AUSvsIND
— brad davidson (@braddavo) February 18, 2023
Travis Head has already made more runs in this innings than Warner has for the year. https://t.co/b1UP3fLiYo
— Cam Gauder (@CamGauder) February 18, 2023
David Warner out in lieu of concussion protocols & his replacement Matt Renshaw gets a chance to recalibrate. Horrific has been Warner’s run in the subcontinent. It may well be a blessing for Australia to have Travis Head opening the innings. Match is still on.
— Dr. Nauman Niaz (@DrNaumanNiaz) February 18, 2023
That feels like a very significant little session for Travis Head (and maybe Australia's hopes in this series).#INDvAUS
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) February 18, 2023
Lyon - who starred with the ball for the Aussies - believes Warner can make a shock return in the Border-Gavaskar series despite the veteran opener's injury setback. Sources say the elbow fracture would not have prevented Warner from batting in the second innings had he not been ruled out of match with concussion.
Long-time state and national teammate Lyon backed Warner to make a quick recovery ahead of the third Test in Indore, starting on March 1. "Obviously he's injured, concussed and a fracture in the arm and your spirits dare say go down a little bit, but Davey is Davey, we love having him around the team," Lyon said.
"Talking to the medical staff it's one of those ones where you could potentially play if you rest it over the next few days and we've got a decent break after this Test match. If he's recovered well, I wouldn't be surprised if you see him out there again."
Nathan Lyon breaks record in Delhi masterclass
Lyon delivered one of the finest performances of his 117-Test career to finish with figures of 5-67, helping to bowl India out one run short of Australia's first innings total of 263. Lyon looked out-of-sorts during the first Test but the 36-year-old could not have responded any better in the Indian capital, bowling with accuracy on a bouncy, turning wicket.
"Whatever we get we have to make sure it's enough... be really brave," Lyon said of Australia's second innings. "We need to trust the guys' methods when they have the support of the whole change room to go out there and play the way they want to play and the way they think they can combat the quality bowling India have."
After taking 4-13 during a masterful spell in the morning session, Lyon picked up India wicketkeeper KS Bharat (six) to bring up his 22nd five-wicket Test haul. It was also a record-breaking eighth in Test matches against India, putting him one ahead of Sri Lankan great, Muttiah Muralitharan
For the second Test in a row, an Australian debutant took the prized wicket of Virat Kohli (44). Queensland left-armer Matt Kuhnemann (2-72) broke through for his first Test scalp after the umpire gave Kohli out lbw.
Kohli reviewed the decision, but the third umpire stuck with the on-field decision, much to the displeasure of the 34-year-old and his army of fans. India slumped to 7-139 and appeared to be crashing to a dire position, but bowling allrounders Axar Patel (74) and Ravichandran Ashwin (37) rescued the hosts, before Head's heroics edged the Aussies ahead.
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