Editor’s note: This report was updated through the day.
Visitors Australia won the toss and opted to bat first against India in the first Test of the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in Nagpur. While India decided to hand Test debuts to Srikar Bharat and Suryakumar Yadav, slotting them in for Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, Australia chose to hand the Baggy Green to right-arm off-spinner Todd Murphy.
India, as expected, are fielding three spinners - Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and the returning Ravindra Jadeja. Although these decision were on expected lines, both the skippers springed up some surprises as India left out the in-form Shubman Gill and Pat Cummins and Co went in without Travis Head, who is replaced by Peter Handscomb.
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There has been a lot of talk about the pitches even before the series started. Foreign teams have often struggled to overcome conditions in India, with England thrashed 3-1 in 2021. Australia last won a Test series in India in 2004 and India have won the teams’ last three encounters, including twice in Australia. The VCA is expected to aid spinners and Pat Cummins was clear about his decision to bat first.
He said: “Looks like a pretty even wicket towards the middle. 2017 was a big series. Can’t wait to get this started. We have had good preparation. We feel we are really well placed.”
Meanwhile, second-placed India are aiming to win the series at least 3-0 to assure themselves of a spot in the final in the ICC World Test Championship at The Oval in June for the second year running. A draw in any of the four Tests will be enough to secure world number one Australia a place.
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At the toss, Rohit Sharma said, “We would have batted too. Looks pretty dry. There will be help for spinners. We got to wait and see how much it does. Yesterday when we started training we did see some seam movement for the pacers up front. We have had a good prep for the last 5-6 days. We trained on the aspects in store. This is a big one. We know the importance of the series but we also understand it’s about winning one session at a time. It’s a long series.”
The series and hosts India were off to an incredible start in the first couple of minutes as Mohammed Siraj struck in his first delivery of the series to dismiss Usman Khawaja for 1. Mohammed Shami also wasted no time and got the better of David Warner for 1 run in his second over as brushed the pad and sneaked through and took off his off-stump. Australia were reduced to 2/2 inside three overs.
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However, Australia recovered strongly after those early double blow thanks to the 79-run partnership between Steve Smith (19*) and Marnus Labuschagne (47*) in the first session. The talk revolved around spin for a better part of the pre-match chatter but in the first session, there was turn on offer but it was the bounce that was more evident. However, the Australian duo displayed solid execution in seeing off India’s three-pronged spin attack before lunch.
In the session: 32 overs, 76 runs, 2 wickets
In just the third over after lunch, Ravindra Jadeja, in his return to cricket struck twice quickly to bring India right back into the game. Labuschagne, the world number one Test batsman, was dismissed one short of a half-century. KS Bharat, took his first stumping in international Test cricket to effect the dismissal. Then, he trapped Matt Renshaw, the new batter immediately as well. Things took a turn for worse for Australia when Jadeja picked up his third and also dismissed Steve Smith for 37.
Australia slid to 174/8 at the tea interval but not before a good counterattack from Alex Carey. Ashwin dismissed him for his 450th Test wicket, then removed Pat Cummins cheaply too. Jadeja picked up his fourth wicket soon after, trapping debutant Murphy in front.
In the session: 28 overs, 98 runs, 6 wickets.
Jadeja finished with figures of 5/47 and Ashwin took three wickets as the Australian innings folded for 177 in the final session on a turning Nagpur pitch.
Skipper Rohit Sharma began by hitting three boundaries off Australian skipper Pat Cummins’ first over, and put on 76 runs with opening partner KL Rahul. The Indian captain reached his fifty with a four off Nathan Lyon and remained sharp to see off the day’s play.
Skipper Rohit looked in ominious touch as he brought up a quick fifty in the final session. Although KL Rahul’s rather laboured innings ended for 20 to hand debutant Todd Murphy his first Test wicket. It also gave Australia something positive to end the day with but India safely finished the day in the driver’s seat.
Interestingly, Ashwin Ravichandran walked in at three to join Rohit in the middle after the dismissal just an over before the end of day’s play. India finished Day 1 with 77/1, trailing by just 100 runs.
In the session: 27.5 overs, 80 runs, 3 wickets
Australia Playing XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey(w), Pat Cummins(c), Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Scott Boland
India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma(c), KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Srikar Bharat(w), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj
With inputs from AFP
This will be updated through the day