Umesh shines but defiant Starc takes Australia to 256/9

Umesh shines but defiant Starc takes Australia to 256/9
Umesh Yadav gave a brilliant exhibition of reverse swing bowling before Mitchell Starc's rearguard half-century helped Australia reach a competitive 256 for nine against India on a difficult first day track in the first Test.

On a pitch that could be termed a rank turner, it was fast bowler Umesh, who showed exemplary skills with the old ball, returning with figures of 4/32 in 12 overs reducing Australia to 205 for nine before Starc staged a recovery with a ferocious counter-attack.

Starc used his long handle to good effect as he blasted the second new ball getting five fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 57 off 58 balls. Enroute to his ninth half-century in Tests, Starc also completed 1000 runs in the longest format.

Along with Josh Hazlewood (1 batting), he added 55 runs for the unbroken 10th wicket giving the team's total more than a semblance of respectability considering the conditions that they batted on.

Among the top-order, it was young left-handed opener Matt Renshaw (68 off 156 balls), who showed technique as well as temperament despite a stomach bug that forced him to retire at the fall of David Warner's (38) wicket.

Opting to bat, Australian openers Warner and Renshaw tackled the spinners well, especially Ravichandran Ashwin (2/59 in 34 overs), who not only got the ball to turn big and but also bowled tight lines.

From Sunil Gavaskar to Shane Warne, everyone said that the first day track was extremely difficult to bat on and Starc's innings ensured that Australia reached close to 275-run mark -- considered a par score on this track which is expected to get worse by the day.

No praise should be enough for Umesh, who was introduced as late as 28th over where he was handed the semi-new ball. Te normally flamboyant Warner was cautious and paid the price as he dragged a delivery shaping away into the stumps.

Renshaw, who was batting confidently till then, suffered a stomach bug, which meant that two new batsmen in skipper Steve Smith (27) and Shaun Marsh (16) were at the crease.

Indians took charge from the second session as Australians went into a shell and the pitch made matters worse for them with Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja (2/74 in 24 overs) strangulating the batsmen.

There weren't any partnerships with wickets falling at regular intervals.

Yadav was exceptional with the old ball as he got it to reverse at 140k plus speed, running through the lower middle order. Matthew Wade and Nathan Lyon had no answer to the swinging deliveries while Wriddhiman Saha's exceptional catch got rid of Steve O'Keefe.

But just as Indians were getting ready to bat for around half an hour, Starc was in a mood to counter attack, throwing his bat at everything. The second new ball helped his cause as it came on nicely to the bat as he plonked his front-foot and hit the spinners through the line.
 
The visitors were let down by the senior batsmen in the team including captain Smith, who pottered around for 95 balls to make 27 before having a rush of blood, falling to Ashwin who also got the wicket of Renshaw later.

Even after losing Warner and Renshaw who had to leave the crease due to indisposition, the visitors crept to 119 for one before losing wickets at regular intervals.

The Indian spin bowlers were shuffled around by captain Virat Kohli, which never allowed the batsmen to settle down.

The trio of Indian spinners had Australia on the hop by striking three blows after lunch they could not recover till Starc's counter-punching knock as hit a six each off Ashwin, Jadeja and Ishant Sharma.

There was turn for the Indian spinners but the track was not the cause of the Australian batsmen's downfall as they lost their way after a sound start by Warner, who played an unusually subdued innings of 38 in 77 balls with six fours, and Renshaw.

The wickets of captain Smith, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb (22) in the second period of play turned things around as the hosts took control.

After tea, Jadeja packed off Mitchell Marsh (4) by trapping the batsman plumb in-front and then Umesh struck again to have Wade leg before that left the visitors at a difficult 190 for six as Renshaw held one end up with diligent batting.

Ashwin then struck an important blow by having the stubborn Renshaw caught at second slip. The lanky batsman prodded at one that turned away across the bat and the edge was taken by Murali Vijay.

Earlier, in the morning after winning the toss, the visitors, apprehensive about the behaviour of the dry track, were more enterprising in the first session when openers Warner and Renshaw were at the crease.

But once they departed from the scene, the scoring rate dropped drastically. Skipper Smith cut out all frills and played a dour knock while elder of the Marsh brothers - Shaun made 16 before falling to Jayant Yadav trying to play the sweep shot.

Smith continued his defensive ways after lunch but a double blow saw the visitors' captain and Peter Handscomb depart late in the second session.

Handscomb was caught right in front of the wicket by Jadeja with a quicker, straight ball and five balls later Ashwin had Smith caught at mid-wicket coming down the track in a rush of blood.

Handscomb batted for 45 balls while Smith faced 95 balls and struck just two fours.

India almost had next man Marsh sent back caught behind off Ashwin in the same over in which he dismissed Smith, but a review of the decision revealed he had not nicked the turning ball. But he did not last long after tea.

And when Renshaw was dismissed by Ashwin, the end of the innings was in sight with Australia at 196 for 7, having all seven wickets in less than 50 overs and for the addition of 114 runs.

Renshaw, playing in only his fifth Test, the other Australian top line batsmen did not know how much to attack and how well to defend.
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