Labuschagne (108) highlights Australia’s first day total 274-5
Marnus Labuschagne rode his luck to secure a home-ground century as Australia exploited India’s injury woes and punished their poor fielding to reach 274-5 on day one of the fourth Test decider in Brisbane.
Captain Tim Paine was 38 not out and all-rounder Cameron Green on 28, with Australia holding sway after winning the toss and batting on a Gabba pitch that flattened out obligingly for the hosts under a blazing sun.
Labuschagne, dropped on 37 and 48, feasted on India’s makeshift attack in a 113-run partnership with Matthew Wade (45) before Australia’s number three was out slogging for 108.
Without a single first-choice bowler available – all sidelined or long since departed with injuries – India blooded two debutants in paceman T Natarajan and spin-bowling all-rounder Washington Sundar, with the duo four changes to the 11 that held on for a courageous draw in Sydney in the third Test.
Both the new boys had their moments, with Sundar claiming Steve Smith (36) as his first Test wicket and Natarajan dismissing Labuschagne and Wade.
However, India’s cards were dealt earlier in the day when stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane dropped a simple chance in the gully that would have removed Labuschagne for 37.
It was only the first part of a rapid double-blow, with the bowler Navdeep Saini promptly off the ground with a groin injury and unable to bowl again.
India would have had Australia at 93-4 at that point, and could have mitigated the damage had Cheteshwar Pujara held a much tougher chance at first slip when Labuschagne nicked Natarajan behind.
From there, the tourists could not find another wicket until Australia had reached 200, with Labuschagne attacking with gusto and bringing up his fifth Test century, which he celebrated by ripping off his helmet and kissing its crest.
Paine got off to a watchful start but ramped up the pressure after paceman Shardul Thakur put down a waist-high caught-and-bowled chance that would have dismissed Green for 19.
Though gutted by injuries, with pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, batsman Hanuma Vihari and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin all ruled out, India battled hard.
Yet they could not match the heights of a thrilling first hour, when they removed both Australia’s openers before drinks. (Skysports)