Travis Head scored an unbeaten half-century on his home debut to give Australia hope of reeling in India’s first innings lead despite a string of batting failures on day two of the first test on Friday (December 07).

While the South Australia captain’s second fifty in his third test was a boost to home fans, it merely glossed over the fault-lines snaking through the batting in Tim Paine’s team. Having wrapped up India’s innings with the first ball of the day, the top order was almost as quick to blow Australia’s advantage.

Aaron Finch was bowled for a duck third ball by paceman Ishant Sharma and number four Shaun Marsh’s dreadful run of form continued when he dragged spinner Ravichandran Ashwin onto his stumps for two after an excruciating 19-ball innings.

Debutant opener Marcus Harris, one of three Ashwin victims, was quick to blame a “tough” drop-in wicket and worked hard to put a rosy spin on the batsmen’s travails.

“It’s not as easy as the old Adelaide Oval wicket,” said Harris, who was caught in close for 26 after nicking onto his pads.

Despite a slew of false shots and beaten bats, tailender Mitchell Starc and Head somehow survived the final overs to give Australia hope of mustering a total on day three.

Having lost nine wickets on day one, many of them cheaply, India were rightfully proud of their bowlers’ work on day two.

“I see it as neck and neck as far as the game goes right now,” said Ashwin, who conceded only 50 runs in a heavy 33-over load.

Australia were 191 for seven, with Head 61 not out and Starc on eight, still 59 runs short of India’s modest total of 250 at the close of another baking hot day at Adelaide Oval.