Kuldeep Yadav gave India the upper hand on the opening day of the Dharamsala Test    IANS
Kuldeep Yadav gave India the upper hand on the opening day of the Dharamsala Test IANS

Perhaps for the first time in a marathon home season, India did not have to pin hopes on either Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja for wickets. Instead, the debutant Kuldeep Yadav produced a terrific spell of 4 for 68 to wreck Australia s batting plans, dismantling an inconsistent top-order and giving India an upper hand by the end of the first day s play in the fourth Test. The Indian bowlers did get the better of Australia s batting once again, but Steven Smith continued to plunder runs. Smith cracked his 20th Test century to propel Australia to a competitive first-innings total of 300, along with a rearguard 57 by Matthew Wade. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia, 4th Test at Dharamsala

Kuldeep s spell in the second session on the opening day may have a huge impact on how this Test pans out, as his 4 wickets pegged back Australia who were off to a flying start. Despite losing Matt Renshaw early to the new ball, Smith and David Warner launched a counterattack and took Australia to 131 for 1 at lunch. The Australian pair put up a rapid second-wicket stand for 134 runs, dominating India completely with aggressive batting. However, tables turned with India s 33rd captain Ajinkya Rahane deciding to give Kuldeep a prolonged spell, in which he wrecked Australia s middle-order. Full Cricket Updates, India vs Australia 2017, 4th Test at Dharamsala, Day 1

The 22-year-old Chinaman bowler accounted for David Warner (56), Peter Handscomb (8), Glenn Maxwell (8) as well as Pat Cummins to provide India the entry back into the contest. Ravichandran Ashwin claimed the key wicket of Smith but not before his splendid century, and went past Dale Steyn to record most wickets in a season. Ashwin now has 79 wickets to his name since the start of India s home season with a three-match Test series against New Zealand.

In fact, all of India s five bowlers the team made two changes for the series-decider claimed a wicket each. Umesh Yadav dismissed Renshaw and Shaun Marsh, and Ravindra Jadeja cleaned up Wade when he looked to get late runs for Australia. On his comeback, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was unlucky as he did not get more than 1 wicket. Bhuvneshwar replaced Ishant Sharma and Kuldeep came in for Virat Kohli who carried drinks and was spotted in several discussions with his men. Australia, who decided to unchanged for the final Test, would have suffered an early blow but Karun Nair grassed a catch off the first ball off Warner s bat.

Smith and Warner then joined forces as the wicket flattened out soon. The ball bounced enough for their liking and there was not much turn either, which prompted the batsmen to go for their strokes. While Warner, in need of a big score, went about his job with a more disciplined approach, Smith decided to launch an attack by freeing up his arms. He punished each delivery which had any width, and raced to 72 not out.

On the other hand, Warner was able to get some runs off Ashwin, hitting a six and a boundary off his nemesis. Warner would have hoped for a century as conditions remained conducive for batting, but a delivery that rose sharply on him off Kuldeep ended his stay. Australia slipped from 131 for 1 to 178 for 5 in the second session, with Kuldeep chipping away with wickets on a regular basis.

Shaun Marsh, one of Australia’s heroes from the Ranchi Test, chased one down the leg and was caught behind for 4. Peter Handscomb was beaten by the drift on a Kuldeep delivery, which he chased outside off but missed the line completely. He fell for his first single-digit score in Test cricket. Glenn Maxwell tried counterattacking, but he was cleaned up on a wrong ‘un by Kuldeep who by now had turned the tides in India’s favour.

Having suffered several jolts in the second session, Australia’s scoring went down drastically, and same remained the case with Smith even though he showed technical and skillful superiority among all the batsmen. Against Kuldeep, for example, he used the depth of the crease perfectly to fend of dangerous deliveries.

He brought up his century with a boundary, which is now his seventh century in eight Tests against India and third of the series. Smith had also scored a ton in the tour match, which tells how much he likes batting against India. However, he was dismissed shortly before the tea break, with Ashwin grabbing his first and the only wicket in the innings.

However, the dismissal of Smith was special for more than one reason. With that wicket, Ashwin created the world record of most wickets in a season, surpassing Steyn’s record of 78 wickets taken in the 2007-08 season.

India would have expected to bring a closure to Australia’s innings shortly after play resumed, but Pat Cummins showed impressive defensive skills and batting mindset. He looked for sharp singles and defended with straight bat to provide Australia stability. Cummins’ strokeplay showed his credentials with the bat, with the right-hander striking 3 boundaries and 1 six for his 40-ball 21.

Cummins added a mere 37 runs with Wade, but the partnership changed the mood in the Australian camp and the belief to get some late runs rekindled. When Cummins played one back to Kuldeep, Steve O’Keefe added another 24 with Wade for the eighth wicket. On his part, Nathan Lyon played the sweep shot the best among all batsmen, even hitting Kuldeep for consecutive boundaries.

Wade brought out his best effort with the bat so far, facing 125 balls to score 57. He played the spin with a lot of assurance, and also hit 4 boundaries and a six over deep fine leg off Umesh on a short delivery. All in all, Australia’s tail added 100 crucial runs even though they would feel anything between 400-450 would have been an ideal score.

India batted for only one over, with Josh Hazlewood sending down a maiden to KL Rahul.

Brief scores:

Australia 300 (David Warner 56, Steven Smith 111, Matthew Wade 57; Umesh Yadav 2 for 69, Kuldeep Yadav 4 for 68) lead India (0/0) by 300 runs.