Debutant Kuldeep Yadav helps India restrict Australia to 300

Kuldeep Yadav was the pick of the bowlers, accounting for four of Australia's batsmen while conceding 68 runs.

India's Kuldeep Yadav and Murali Vijay celebrate the dismissal of Australia's Peter Handscomb.   -  Reuters

A new comer’s intrigue and the seasoned art of a run accumulator made up for some fascinating Test cricket at the HPCA Stadium here. Steve Smith’s third century of the series and Kuldeep Yadav’s excellent debut were the striking features of the opening day’s play in the fourth and final Test.

The aggression was missing in the Indian ranks since Virat Kohli was confined to the dressing room but Kuldeep, the proponent of Chinaman bowling with a built-in smile, brought in a refreshing style of attacking cricket in a throwback to the days of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, taking wickets with sheer skills and not being over-reliant on the surface.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Kuldeep’s strikes were pure demonstration of a spinner’s skills as Australia, riding on a classy century by Smith, finished at 300 after electing to bat. From 144 for one, Australia lost nine wickets for 156 runs, the collapse triggered by Kuldeep, who earned praise by not compromising with the situation.

What stood out was Kuldeep’s wicket-taking style in a lively display of temperament befitting the expectations from him.

The tepid spectator response to this hilly town hosting its first-ever Test was a dampener on a day when India took the field without its best player, Kohli, ruled out due to a shoulder injury. It’s another matter that his involvement remained paramount as he kept running in with messages.

Kohli’s stamp was visible as India picked five bowlers — rightly making Ishant Sharma sit out. The 22-year-old Kuldeep’s inclusion was based on the fact that his ware was unknown to Australia and some of the dismissals confirmed the fears of the visiting batsmen. Failing to read Kuldeep’s wrist left them embarrassed at the crease and India seemed to have found a bowler to join the galaxy of slow bowlers, the first Chinaman variety spinner.

READ: Empty seats as HPCA debuts as a Test venue

It was a pleasant sight to watch skipper Ajinkya Rahane execute his plans with an unpretentious presence at first slip. He backed the bowlers with some astute field placements and essentially brought a calming effect during the phase when Australia looked to dominate.

The Test saw a two-minute delay and a first-ball thrill as David Warner edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar but Karun Nair was late in responding at third slip and spilled the offering. Matt Renshaw, however, played the wrong line to Umesh Yadav and the contest was off to a gripping start, a wicket in the second over. The next, however, came after a struggle as Warner and Smith laid the structure of the Australian innings with a quality 134-run partnership that brought the best of the day’s cricket.

The first session left the Indian camp in a state of worry. A score of 131 for one presented the new captain with a daunting challenge. His response was calculated even as Australia approached differently. Warner showed patience and respect for the ball. Smith attacked and attacked well, picking the line early and gaps at will. The session was a salute to Smith’s temperament and Warner’s resolve to adapt.

READ: Kuldeep Yadav’s dream debut

The pitch played its part. The bounce was true and movement minimal — a sharp contrast to the nature of the pitch here. It suited the Australians. India feared a huge run assault but Kuldeep stepped in and changed the course by removing Warner, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell with superbly planned deliveries.

Warner was surprised by the extra bounce; Handscomb was bowled through the gate and Maxwell was foxed by a beauty that squared him up. Kuldeep’s control and confidence matched the tenacity of Smith and took the competition a notch higher. Smith, displaying exemplary ease in combating the Indians, had contributed more than half his team’s score when he fell at 208, edging R. Ashwin to slip. A half century by Mathew Wade helped Australia to 300 and left India to tackle an over.

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