Australia v England - 5th Test: Day 1
HOBART, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14:Travis Head of Australia bats during day one of the Fifth Test in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Blundstone Arena on January 14, 2022 in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Australia v England - 5th Test: Day 1

Australia were somewhat vindicated in their decision to pick Peter Handscomb for the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar series, but it's who they left out that will have heads being scratched after a miserable opening day in Nagpur.

The bombshell half an hour before play was that the number four ranked batsman in the world - Travis Head - would be left out to accommodate the selection of not only Handscomb, but also Matt Renshaw.

Renshaw, of course, was recalled to the Test side for the first time in years during the final Test of the home summer against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

His golden duck yesterday - trapped LBW in front as he played all around a delivery - wouldn't have left the selectors overly impressed, and the pressure will now be raised in the second innings to deliver a score.

The pressure, of course, will also be on the shoulders of Handscomb to deliver again, with Renshaw, Handscomb and Head likely to be fighting for a single spot in the line-up when the side for the second Test is picked, thanks to the return of Cameron Green, who will bat at number six and provide an incredible benefit to the Australian bowling attack, who struggled badly at the back-end of Day 1.

As expected, the opening day of the series brought about the simple fact that Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith are going to need to score runs by the truckload if the tourists are to find themselves competitive, or in with a chance at winning the series outright.

Both made starts and recovered the innings from a horror position after the early loss of both Usman Khawaja and David Warner, but their twin wickets on either side of Renshaw's horror show took Australia from a position of relative stability at 2 for 84 on a difficult track, to one of major concern at 5 for 109.

Handscomb (31) and Alex Carey (36 off 33 balls) then put on 53 for the sixth wicket in a crucial partnership.

Carey's innings was particularly pleasing as he took the attack to India - and in difficult conditions on a pitch which is low, slow and taking turn, that is absolutely the way to score runs.

He ultimately was bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin on a day that was otherwise dominated by Ravindra Jadeja, but his attack took Australia's score back to relative safety - before the tail made a combined seven runs to see the tourists all out for 177.

It's Carey's innings which proves the first step in just how much Head will be missed. While the South Australian is not by any admission the best player of spin, the mere facts are that he is both in form, and an aggressive batsman. He takes the attack and challenge to any bowling attack, and it's more than clear that attack on a pitch like this is the best form of defence.

That will be missing when Australia shape up for a second innings where they will likely start with a hefty deficit.

The Test is not gone, but India put a significant dent in Australia's chances by arriving at stumps at 1 for 77. Outside of debutant Todd Murphy, the bowling attack was well off the mark for the Aussies.

Pat Cummins bowled possibly the worst spell he has delivered in Test cricket, while Nathan Lyon struggled to stem the flow of runs.

Murphy wound up with 1 for 13 off 7 overs, and there is a serious train of thought that suggests he could well be the future of Australia's spin role, with Lyon not quite at the top of his game in recent times.

Regardless of that, the pair will need to bowl in tandem during Day 2 to limit India, but it was Rohit Sharma's 56 off 69 balls not out at stumps which again goes to show that attack will be the best form of defence on this wicket.

Again, it goes to show where Australia have fallen by not picking Head, although that could equally come to the fore during Day 2 without some overs from Head, who is a well above-par part-time off-spinning option.

The first Test of this Border-Gavaskar series is not gone for the tourists, but they will need to bowl India out for something under 250 - and that looks a long way off right now given neither Cheteshwar Pujara or Virat Kohli have arrived at the crease yet.