Chennai, Feb 22: R Ashwin and Michael Clarke shared the honours on the opening day of the first Test between India and Australia here on Friday. Ashwin took six wickets and threatened to bowl the visitors out cheaply. But lucky Clarke led team's fightback with his 23rd Test century.
Australia were precariously placed at 153/5 in 47 overs, but Clarke and debutant Moises Henriques (68) revived the innings with a 151-run partnership. At stumps, Australia were 316/7 in 95 overs with Clarke 103 not out (169 balls, 11x4, 1x6) and Peter Siddle unbeaten on 1.
Clarke reached his hundred in the final over of the day with a boundary off Ravindra Jadeja. India bowled 95 overs, five more than the scheduled for the day. Clarke was lucky to earn a reprieve on 39 when umpire Sri Lanka's Kumar Dharmasena failed to spot an inside-edge caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at shortleg off Ashwin's bowling.
It was a disappointing day for Harbhajan Singh, who was in his 100th Test. His 19 overs cost 71 runs without success. He was outbowled by Ravindra Jadeja with 24 overs and the left-arm spinner had a wicket as well.
Right from the beginning, the only bowler who looked like taking a wicket was Ashwin. Playing in India whites for the first time at home ground, the offspinner thrived in suitable conditions. He ended with 6/88 in 30 overs.
Clarke continued his great run with the willow. Having scored more than 1,500 runs last year, Clarke played the spinner well using his feet. Things could have been better for India if he was given out on 40. When on 11, Clarke completed 7,000 Test runs.
Henriques did not show any nerves on debut and excelled under pressure. His 68 came off 132 balls with 6 boundaries.
With the pitch showing signs of turn and slowness, batting will not be easy as the match progresses.
At tea, Australia 215/5
Ashwin weaved his magic on his home ground on Friday. The offspinner took all five wickets to fall so far as Australia were in trouble at 215/5 in 66 overs by tea on the first day of the first Test.
Resuming at 126/2, Australia lost Shane Watson LBW to Ashwin in the first over after lunch. David Warner and Matthew Wade too departed in similar fashion to the same bowler.
However, captain Michael Clarke (45 batting), in the company of debutant Moises Henriques (29 batting) halted Ashwin and India's charge with a half century partnership for the sixth-wicket.
Things could have been even worse for the visitors if not for this rescue act. They were 153/5 in 47 overs with Ashwin on top of his game.
Ashwin should have had a sixth when Clarke clearly inside-edged a ball and was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at shortleg. But umpire Kumar Dharamasena failed to spot that. The Australian skipper was on 39 then.
Lunch: Australia 126/2
On a pitch that has already started turning on the first day, Australia went to lunch at 126/2 in 34 overs against India in the first Test here on Friday.
Openers Ed Cowan and David Warner gave the team a brisk start before home boy R Ashwin struck two blows to check the progress. At the break Warner was unbeaten on 58.
With debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma ineffective in first five overs, Harbhajan Singh, in his 100th Test was introduced early. Ashwin too came into the attack, in the 9th over.
Playing his first Test at home ground, Ashwin could have hand a wicket in the first over but Virender Sehwag put down Warner (18) at slip. An easy chance was spilled.
Ashwin got his success in the next over when he had Cowan stumped by MS Dhoni. The Chennai lad added Phil Hughes when the left-hander attempted to cut and played onto the stumps.
Shane Watson, batting at number four, along with Warner, took the cautious route with the ball turning and safely went to lunch.
Toss: Australia opt to bat
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first .
Harbhajan Singh is playing his 100th Test as he pipped Pragyan Ojha to the second spinner's slot. Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay will be India's openers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is making his Test debut.
On a dry pitch, India captain MS Dhoni too said he would have batted first had he won the toss.
Australia handed Test debut to all-rounder Moises Henriques.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh.
Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Moises Henriques, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon.