The Australians bounce back in the first half after two DRS dramas, India in a spin at the top

Australia had to shake their heads after twice missing Indian skipper Rohit Sharma’s big wicket in the first leg of the third Test in Delhi after failing to review two bad calls from referee Nitin Menon.

Sharma knocked down the first ball of the game from Mitchell Starc to Alex Carey, but Menon didn’t give it out and after a brief debriefing with the bowler and close-in fielders, backup skipper Steve Smith chose not to review the decision.

The Aussies ran out of luck watching the replay on the big screen at Holkar Stadium.

But then Starc slipped through Sharma’s defense again on day one with the fourth ball of the opening, the ball grazing the top of his back pad.

Menon again declined the appeal and Smith, after consulting point fielder Nathan Lyon to assess the amount of delivery, decided not to risk wasting a DRS review in frustration after the opening-ball disappointment.

But the replay showed again that the decision on the field was wrong as the ball was thrown and hit in a line and projected to hit the top of the center and outside stumps.

To add salt to Australia’s wounds, Sharma cut Starc off the next delivery for four to finish.

Star Sports commentator Sunil Gavaskar empathized with Smith, saying you have to be safe before you question an on-field rating.

His colleague Matthew Hayden was at a loss from the referee’s performance. “There was nothing but bats, so I was surprised they didn’t check it out,” he said of the first incident. “Maybe they got a little shy because they got quite a lot wrong in the second innings (in Delhi) too.”

Sharma didn’t let them overpay as the opener fell for just 12 after being caught off guard by Carey dancing down the wicket to Matt Kuhnemann.

It was a terrible shot from the skipper and the fact that it triggered a collapse should weigh heavily on him.

INDORE, INDIA - MARCH 01: Mitchell Starc of Australia unsuccessfully appeals the wicket of Rohit Sharma of India during day one of the third Test match in the series between India and Australia at Holkare Cricket Stadium on March 01, 2023 in Indore, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Mitchell Starc unsuccessfully appeals to Rohit Sharma’s wicket. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Spin duo destroys top order

The double strike in the first over had the potential to be a major psychological hurdle for the tourists as they attempt to break the series’ 2-0 deficit, despite having to bat second after losing the toss.

But Kuhnemann combined with Nathan Lyon to break the top order after Smith quickly left the Seamers after Starc sent four overs and Cameron Green just two.

Kuhnemann sacked Shubman Gill in his next over after dismissing Sharma for an airy 21/17.

The unheralded left-hander from Queensland turned the ball nicely when Gill played a forward defensive shot and notched Smith on the first slip to reduce the home side to 2-34 in the eighth over.

And when Lyon turned a sharp break through the goal to sack Cheteshwar Pujara for one, the tourists were 3-36 ahead with India.

It was an unusually bad decision by Pujara to go back and interrupt a time-out.

Ravindra Jadeja, promoted to No. 5, didn’t last long either as he blew a back foot cover drive in the air and Kuhnemann was perfectly placed in a catching position to send him on his way for a four.

Shreyas Iyer soon ended the first hour of the carnage when he hacked at Kuhnemann for a duck on his stumps as India went on drinks break at 5-45.

Completed Key Trio for Indore Revenge Mission

Todd Murphy was declared fit ahead of the Indore Test, with Australia fielding a new side for the third straight game on the tour.

The young Victorian off-spinner suffered a minor side injury in the second Test in Delhi but will take his place in the line-up in Indore as the tourists look to salvage a draw from the four-game series after back-to-back defeats in the space of three days.

They’re counting on the tempo of Starc and Cameron Green to lead the attack with spin from Murphy, Nathan Lyon and Matt Kuhnemann held off pace options Scott Boland and Lance Morris after his Delhi debut. Starc and Green are making their first Border-Gavaskar Trophy series appearances after a two-month hiatus with finger injuries.

Travis Head will open the batting after David Warner left mid-tour with a broken elbow, replacing Green Matt Renshaw in the middle order.

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Smith, who is filling in for Pat Cummins for a third time in a Test after the pace bowler returned to Sydney after his mother was placed in palliative care, lost the pitch when Sharma took a chance to bat first.

Todd Murphy celebrates Virat Kohli's wicket.

Todd Murphy celebrates Virat Kohli’s wicket. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Smith said he relishes the opportunity to lead the team. “It usually brings out the best in me,” Smith said of the captaincy. “I look forward to leading this week in Pat’s absence.”

Smith chose not to train the day before the first and second Tests in India, preferring instead to have a long session two days before those games. Focus has also turned to Smith’s degenerative back problem after he lost a number of catches in the slips during the first two Tests.

“Every once in a while I get (back)thrusts, this one just landed a little longer than I would have liked,” Smith said

“Honestly, it’s not that bad, but I probably won’t bowl. I’m still working hard on my fielding, catching a lot of balls and catching well in practice. Sometimes that just happens in a game.”

India have signed Shubman Gill to replace struggling opener KL Rahul after he lost the vice-captainship after the Delhi Test. They also rested Mohammed Shami, and fast Umesh Yadav comes into the bowling lineup. The Australians bounce back in the first half after two DRS dramas, India in a spin at the top

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