Debutant Kuldeep overshadows centurion Smith on see-saw day

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Kuldeep Yadav picked up a four-wicket haul on debut to bowl Australia out for 300 © BCCI

He comes in from wide of the stumps. His hands go wide, as if he’s signalling a wide. Then they go up in unison around the chest before the right hand jerks to the side, way wide of the body.

The left arms grips the ball and with a flick to the right is sent towards the batsmen with a ‘whhhrrrr’. It was a sight never before seen in Indian men’s Test cricket. Kuldeep Yadav, India’s 288th Test player and its first ever Chinaman bowler, had just broken new boundaries.
He did not just break new boundaries, but also Australian hearts. Kuldeep’s three-wicket burst in his first spell in international cricket brought Australia crashing down to earth from a dominant position. They were there thanks to a superb stand for the second wicket between Steve Smith and David Warner. However, once Kuldeep had the latter caught at slip after his first fifty on the tour, Australia’s innings unravelled quite quickly. From 144 for 1 their last nine wickets only gave them a further 156 runs, as Australia were bowled out for 300. It could have been far lesser if it wasn’t for Matthew Wade’s hard-working fifty.
Smith, at the other end, continued his monstrous form against India, slamming his seventh hundred in eight Tests against them. Smith had an answer to each of the challenges India’s five-man attack threw at him, as he got to his 20th Test hundred. That was until R Ashwin had the better of the Australian captain when he was on 111 just before Tea.

India were without their regular captain Virat Kohli after he failed to sufficiently recover from his shoulder injury. Ajinkya Rahane led the team well in his absence, but Australia’s downfall, after electing to bat first on a good batting wicket, was mostly their own making.

David Warner could have been dismissed off the very first Test delivery bowled in Dharamsala when Bhuvneshwar Kumar, one of two changes for India alongside Kuldeep, got him to edge towards third slip. Karun Nair was late in picking up the ball, and his despairing attempt only saw the ball strike his hand and then the third man boundary fence. In the next over, Matt Renshaw was undone by an inswinger from Umesh Yadav and had his offstump pegged back.

Warner and Smith were then involved in a fine hundred-run stand that put the visitors on top. India were off the mark with their plans to Smith. They bowled wide of off hoping to get Smith out caught behind. The Australian captain however cashed in on the wide deliveries by thumping them to the fence with ease. Australia scored at nearly five runs an over in the first hour.

The introduction of Ashwin and Jadeja brought the scoring down a notch, but India still found no success. By Lunch, Australia had stormed past the hundred run mark for the loss of Renshaw.

In the post-Lunch session, India, through Kuldeep, fought back ferociously. Warner was the first to go, edging a cut off Kuldeep to Rahane at slip to be dismissed for 56. Shaun Marsh’s stay at the crease lasted only 14 deliveries and four runs as he gloved a leg-side delivery to Wriddhiman Saha. Peter Handscomb did little better, scoring eight off 23 balls.

He was lured into the big drive by a loopy delivery from Kuldeep; the ball spun in sharply and snuck through the bat-pad gap to hit the stumps. Glenn Maxwell was completely opened up by a googly from Kuldeep, and wore a bamboozled look as the ball shattered the bails.

At the other end, Smith showed that with little application run-making was easy on the track. His decisive footwork helped him counter the spinners with ease, knocking them either side of the wicket for singles and doubles. When the bowlers slightly erred in line, he put them away to the boundary. His knock was studded with 14 hits to the fence, including a glance to fine leg that got him his hundred.

He added 11 more to his hundred before Ashwin had him caught well by Rahane at slip. Australia had gotten themselves to higher ground at 144/1, before they slumped to a sorry 208/6. A collapse of five wickets for 64 runs on a first-day wicket.

Australia’s lower order gave the team’s total some respect with fighting knocks. Wade was at the centre of the fightback as he shared vital stands with Pat Cummins (21 off 40) and Steve O’Keefe to push the score past 250. He went on to bring up his fifty towards the end of the day.

Kuldeep added to his wickets tally by getting Cummins to drive back to him in the air, while O’Keefe was run out thanks to some sharp fielding from Shreyas Iyer. Jadeja then had Wade bowled going for the big shot, while Bhuvneshwar struck with the new ball to have Lyon caught and end the innings at exactly 300. Kuldeep was India’s best bowler with four for 68.

India had to manage a nervous one-over stay to end the day unscathed and the hosts will look at the next day with great anticipation. Australia, on the other hand, will look back with disappointment and wondering what could have been if they had had capitalised on the early platform.
Brief scores: Australia 300 (Steven Smith 111, Matthew Wade 57, David Warner 56; Kuldeep Yadav 4-68, Umesh Yadav 2-69) lead India 0/0 by 300 runs.

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