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Friday, April 19, 2024

Jadeja and Rohit shine as India in command

Ravindra Jadeja five-wicket haul and an unbeaten half-century by captain Rohit Sharma helped India skittle Australia out for 177 and then reduce the gap by 100 runs on Day 1 of the first Border-Gavaskar Test match at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium here on Thursday.

At stumps, India is 77/1 with Rohit and night-watchman Ravichandran Ashwin batting on 56 and zero respectively.

The Indian openers hardly gave any chance to the Australian bowling attack, but spinner Todd Murphy, who made his debut in the Test, got one luring KL Rahul to go for the drive, which went straight into the hands of the bowler.

In contrast, the Indian spinners had pegged the top Australian batsmen, hardly giving anything away. Jadeja used this situation to perfection, hitting the same spot again and again and letting natural variations do all the talking.

Rohit started off in great style, taking on his counterpart Pat Cummins by smashing a string of boundaries as which gave Rahul (20) an opportunity to settle down.

The Indian captain brought up his 15th Test fifty towards the end of the day, but Australia managed to hit back by scalping Rahul’s wicket after the duo had put on 76 runs for the first wicket.

Earlier, Australia were 76/2 at lunch after India dominated the first half of the first session.

The visitors were in trouble when they lost openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner with just two runs on the board. Spinners were expected to do the damage on a very dry track, but Mohammad Siraj and Mohammad Shami rattled the opening pair.

Siraj dealt the first blow with his very first ball when he trapped Khawaja on the front pad on a full-ish length. The Australian opener was adjudged LBW after Rohit opted for DRS before consulting debutant wicket keeper Srikar Bharat and Siraj.

Shami sizzled with a mind blowing cutter that nipped in sharply at an outstanding pace rattling the off stumps of Warner out of the ground.

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, who is playing his first Test series in India, bailed Australia out of the woods with a fantastic 74-run unbroken stand for third wicket. A couple of balls jumped off the track, but that did not shake the grit of the Aussie pair.

The only blemish came from the blades of Smith when he tried to drive left-arm spinner Axar Patel, but gave a sharp chance to Virat Kohli in the slip who dropped it while batting on 6.

Amidst all this drama, the unbeaten batsmen walloped odd boundaries with Labuschagne and Smith, smashing eight and three boundaries, respectively.

The session points were shared by India and Australia as the hosts were in command in first half by bagging two wickets and second half belonged to the visitors who bounced back on half-century partnership.

India bounced back in style post-lunch session with spinners Jadeja and Ashwin wreaking havoc to restrict Australia at 174/8 at tea.

The duo bagged six wickets, with Jadeja who was making a comeback, hauled four wickets, and at one stage he was on an hat-trick after dismissing the set batsman and an incoming batsman in consecutive deliveries.

Labuschagne (49 off 123 balls) and Smith (37 off 107) were poised for a big show, but Jadeja foxed the former who danced out of the crease to strike the ball but missed it, giving a sharp chance for debutant wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat whip the bails off. The duo had stitched a crucial 82 runs partnership for the third wicket.

Jadeja got Matt Renshaw (0) next ball, plumb in front and soon castled Smith’s timbers with a beauty that came in. Alex Carey (36) walked in and made quick runs in the company of Peter Handscomb (31), but Ashwin broke the 53-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

He then outwitted Cummins (6) with a ball that did not turn much. Jadeja trapped Murphy plumb (0) in front to reduce Australia to 174/8.

Brief Scores: Australia 177 all out (Marnus Labuschagne 49; Ravichandran Ashwin 3/42, R Jadeja 5/47) lead India 77/1 (Rohit Sharma 56*) by 100 runs.

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