Dharamsala, March 25 (IANS) Debutant left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav’s four wickets helped India skittle out Australia for 300 in their first innings on the opening day of the fourth and final cricket Test here on Saturday.
Electing to bat after winning the toss here, skipper Steven Smith (111) and opener David Warner (56) set the tone for a massive Australian total, before chinaman Kuldeep triggered a batting collapse to bring India back into the game, with figures of 4/68.
Pacer Umesh Yadav complimented the rookie spinner well to pick 2/69 while seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin took a wicket apiece.
India batted for an over and are still to open their scoring with both the openers Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay intact at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium.
With the series locked at one-all, India suffered a big blow when captain and batting mainstay Virat Kohli was ruled out of the match due to a right shoulder injury he suffered in the third Test in Ranchi.
India didn’t replace Kohli with a batsman but decided to field an extra bowler, in the form of Kuldeep.
Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane lost the toss and Australia decided to bat first. The tourists endured a big blow early in their innings when opening batsman Matt Renshaw (1) was bowled by Umesh in the second over of the day.
Smith joined hands with Warner and the experienced duo helped Australia not only recover from the early blow but also put their team in command with a 134-run stand for the second wicket.
Smith, who has been in superb form in this series, handled the Indian bowlers with ease, registering his third century of the series and 20th in his Test career. The right-hander hit 14 boundaries during the 173 deliveries he faced.
Smith’s smooth batting helped Warner overcome his early struggles and adopt his trademark aggressive style. He hammered eight boundaries apart from a six over the mid-off fence off the bowling of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
The partnership was broken by Kuldeep, who removed Warner shortly after lunch with the Aussie southpaw staying back on a fuller delivery that extracted bounce off the wicket taking the edge of the bat with skipper Ajinkya Rahane pouching it.
The Uttar Pradesh spinner surprised one and all with his craft on debut. Kuldeep made the most of the bounce off the pitch and turned the ball sharply with his variations leaving the batsmen flummoxed more often than not.
The last Test’s saviours Shaun Marsh (4)and Peter Handscomb (8) did not last long, leaving the visitors at 168/4.
Marsh could not cope with Umesh’s short delivery with the ball kissing his gloves through to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. Right-hander Handscomb went for the drive to what looked like a fuller delivery but the drift did the trick with the Aussie caught having too much gap between bat and pad and the ball beating his inside edge and knocking the bails off.
Kuldeep, whose best first class figures are 6/79, was bowling beautifully and barring Smith none of his teammates seemed to be picking him.
Glenn Maxwell was next to go as the in-form batsman failed to pick the wrong one after Kuldeep bowled with a scrambled seam with the ball crashing onto his stumps.
The biggest wicket though came towards the end of the second session. Smith, who until that point looked to be playing against a different bowling attack than his colleagues who huffed and puffed, played for the turn but the ball took the edge of his bat and Ajinkya Rahane pulled off another sharp catch at first slip, as Australia reeled at 208/6.
After the tea session, Mathew Wade (57) and Pat Cummins (21) showed some fight but Kuldeep removed the latter with a catch off his own bowling.
Wade waged a lone battle at one end, while Steve O’ Keefe (8) ran himself out. Wade registered his fourth fifty in Test cricket before being bowled by left-arm spinner Jadeja as his team lost its ninth wicket for 298.
Bhuvneshwar chipped in with a wicket after Nathan Lyon (13 offered a catch to Cheteshwar Pujara to end the Australian innings at 300, as Josh Hazlewood remained not out for two.