ADELAIDE (Reuters) – Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin removed Australia’s openers to leave the home side vulnerable at 57 for two at lunch on day two of the first test yesterday after India were bowled out for 250 underpinned by a century from Cheteshwar Pujara.
Spinner Ashwin had debutant opener Marcus Harris caught for 26, breaking a 45-run partnership with Usman Khawaja, after paceman Ishant bowled Aaron Finch for a duck with the third delivery of the innings.
Usman Khawaja was 21 not out, with nervous number four Shaun Marsh on one run at the break on another steamy day at Adelaide Oval.
Virat Kohli’s team were unable to add to their overnight total of 250, with tail-ender Mohammed Shami giving up the last wicket for six, caught behind after gloving a wayward leg-side delivery to Tim Paine.
Finch’s place at the top of Australia’s order has attracted plenty of scrutiny and the one-day specialist’s home test debut got off to a horror start.
Having survived a big appeal for lbw after declining to play a shot with the second ball, he drove with force at the third delivery which nipped back and sent two of his stumps flying.
Victoria batsman Harris and Khawaja saw off India’s seamers with judicious shot-making in the first hour but the former ran into trouble when Ashwin was introduced after the drinks break.
Half an hour before lunch, Ashwin very nearly had his man, as he coaxed a nick from Harris which fell inches short of Murali Vijay’s grasp at silly mid-off.
Harris collected himself, smashing a lofted drive over the spinner’s head two balls later and taking another four off him with a stylish cover drive.
He was undone trying to defend a fuller delivery, though, with a nick pinging off his pad and popping up obligingly for Vijay in close.
Pujara struck a defiant century in an Adelaide Oval furnace to rescue India after Australia’s pacemen threatened to dominate day one of the series-opening test on Thursday.
The India number three battled a hamstring strain late in the day but was a rock even as his partners crumbled around him, pushing India to 250 for nine at the close with a brutal assault on the second new ball.
Unbroken by dogged and often fierce pace bowling, Pujara was dismissed for 123 by a piece of brilliant fielding, with Pat Cummins swooping in to throw down the stumps.
That was the last play on a day of scorching heat, leaving tail-ender Mohammed Shami on six, with Jasprit Bumrah the final batsman to resume on day two.
Pujara’s 16th test century saved India after a disastrous start that saw them slump to 86 for five after lunch, falling to a combination of dreadful shot-making and quality Australian pace after captain Virat Kohli won the toss.
“To be honest, we should have batted better but they also bowled well in those first two sessions,” Pujara told reporters.
“I can’t rate it but it was one of (my) best (centuries).
“It was hot but I was set and I knew I could play my shots.
“Once we lost Ashwin, I thought I had to accelerate. I knew what shots I could play on that wicket.”
Pujara anchored vital partnerships with young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin before completing his century with a flick off his pads after scoring his 5,000th run in tests.
Having crawled to his half-century, Pujara ramped up as he ran out of partners, slogging a couple of sixes as shadows crept across the ground.
India had resumed on 143 for six after tea with seamer Cummins having Ashwin edge to the slips for 25 and Mitchell Starc bowling Ishant Sharma for four.
Spinner Nathan Lyon struck twice to expose India’s tail after lunch, having the recalled Rohit Sharma slog-sweep to a fielder for 37 before Pant fell for 25 feathering an edge behind.
Five of India’s top six were out to loose shots, including captain Kohli, who fell for three to a stunning one-handed catch in the gully by a leaping Usman Khawaja.
“Stuck my hand out and it stuck. It’s nice when they do stick,” said the Australian number three.
“It was a good little momentum-goer too, because we got a couple of early (wickets).”
Seamer Josh Hazlewood grabbed two wickets in the morning session, removing Ajinkya Rahane (13) and the out-of-form Lokesh Rahul (two).
Starc removed Murali Vijay for a streaky 11, the recalled batsman edging another rash shot behind to Tim Paine.
“For the most part we were exceptional with the ball today,” said Starc.
“If you said we’d be 250 for nine after losing the toss … I think we’d bite your arm off.”