Ind vs Aus 4th Test: T Natarajan’s saga continues in Australia; Spearheads India in Bumrah’s absence, takes 2 wickets in test debut

Ind vs Aus 4th Test — T Natarajan’s fairytale continues in Australia: When Thangarasu Natarajan boarded the flight to Australia, little did he know that he will return home as an international in all the three formats. The 29-year-old Test debutant was picked in the squad as a replacement for Jasprit Bumrah who was ruled out due to abdominal strain. And the Salem-born did what was asked of him. He took two crucial wickets in Mathew Wade (45) and centurion Marnus Labuschagne in quick succession at Gabba in fourth and final Test of Border Gavaskar Trophy.

The distance between Palayampatti, a non-descript village in Tamil Nadu’s Salem, to Australia’s modern city Brisbane is 9035 km on a google map.

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But add the hardships of a daily wager mother trying to put food on the table, being called for suspect action early in his career, not being privileged enough to get a paternity leave (his daughter is already three months old), it’s a million miles emotionally that Team India’s favourite “Nattu” has traversed.

Getting Labuschagne, who was on a rampage, with a short delivery ensured that Australia didn’t finish the day with a score close to 350.

For someone, who was supposed to be a net bowler, India’s Test Cap No 300, did well enough on the first day despite not exactly being a natural. He also knows that he doesn’t have the express pace to trouble batsmen (his average speed is 130 plus).

He bowled full during his first two spells and made the length shorter when the ball got old and that’s how he induced Wade and Labuschagne to go for those pull shots.

Nobody would have blamed a Natarajan or a Shardul or “leader of the attack” Mohammed Siraj (19-8-51-1), all of whom toiled manfully throughout their multiple spells in a battle of unequals.

Ind vs Aus: Natarajan’s fairytale journey

Nattu, commonly called by teammate, travelled to Down Under as part of a jumbo Indian squad and with the reputation of being a T20 specialist. With 15 List-A games, 20 First-class games, and 37 T20I matches to his credit, he would have been considered lucky when he was handed his ODI debut cap in the final 50-over game. But he showed his class with the white-ball, taking two wickets in his first 10 overs of international career.

Then T20 debut, his preferred format, courtesy of his IPL 2020 performance, followed and he took his game a notch-up. Natarajan took six wickets. And although Hardik Pandya was adjudged the Man of the Series, he was widely acknowledged, even by Pandya, as the best Indian on show through the series.

On to the Test series, with two net bowlers short — the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named four net bowlers but Kamlesh Nagarkoti did not travel with the team and Ishan Porel returned home owing to a hamstring injury— Natarajan stayed back.

Nattu was in for another surprise. With multiple injuries — Mohammed Shami in the first Test, Umesh Yadav in second and Bumrah in the third — Natarajan got the unlikely nod alongside Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar. He headed India’s pace-battery in Brisbane and ended the day with two wickets in 20 overs.

Ind vs Aus 4th Test Day 1- At Stumps: Australia dominate despite good bowling by Sundar and Natarajan

It was an absorbing day of cricket. India’s inexperienced bowling unit was good in parts but the day belonged to Australia and Marnus Labuschagne. They lost both the openers early but Steve Smith and Labuchagne took charge and completely snatched the momentum away by offsetting the Indian bowlers’ rhythm in the second hour of the morning session. Smith missed out on converting it into something big by falling cheaply to debutant Sundar for 36.

The 26-year old made them pay as he changed his gears and jetted off to craft his first ton against India. With Wade alongside, the duo frustrated the bowlers and just when they looked like they were on course for a big first-innings total, Natarajan, struck twice in the final session. But captain Tim Paine and Cameron Green held fort to ensure there were no more damage done. Barring Thakur, who was expensive in his opening two spells, the rest of the Indian bowling fared well.