India v Australia, 4th Test, Dharamsala, 1st day March 25, 2017

Kuldeep four-for limits Australia to 300

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India 0 for 0 trail Australia 300 (Smith 111, Wade 57, Warner 56, Kuldeep 4-68) by 300 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Play 02:34
Chappell: First thought Kuldeep's selection was gutsy

Kuldeep Yadav's left-arm wristspin gave this series yet another unexpected twist, trumping the far more consistent theme of the Australian captain Steven Smith's batting excellence, as India enjoyed the better of the first day of the decisive fourth Test in Dharamsala.

Having reached lunch at a domineering 131 for 1, Australia gave up their last nine wickets for a mere 169, all on a surface that showed itself to be by a distance the most evenly paced of the series. That they did so was down largely to Kuldeep, who was given a key role immediately upon the afternoon's resumption by the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and responded with a delectable spell that turned the direction of the day.

Though Smith motored to his third century of the series - one of only six visiting batsmen to score that many in India - he was left without significant top-order support, and of the rest only Matthew Wade was able to endure for any protracted period. A good indicator of the different nature of play in Dharamsala was that the innings went by without a single recourse to the DRS, in sharp contrast to earlier matches. The new ball in Australian hands looms large as a key to the match.

An irony of Kuldeep's display was that he had come into the side in place of Virat Kohli, who was reduced to drinks duties after concluding that his strained right shoulder was not going to be 100% fit for this match, the last of the Test season. Turning the ball sharply both ways while maintaining an immaculate length and line, Kuldeep recalled the problems created for Australia by another left-arm wristspinner in Sri Lanka last year - Lakshan Sandakan.

The Dharamsala pitch offered pace and bounce for both fast men and spinners to exploit, and it was the fresher fingers of Kuldeep that were best able to take full advantage rather than either Ravindra Jadeja or R Ashwin. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who replaced Ishant Sharma, and Umesh Yadav had both found new-ball movement before Smith took control of proceedings with some help from David Warner.

After Rahane lost the toss, Bhuvneshwar's first ball of the match swerved away from Warner at drivable length. Warner chased it and edged, but the chance was grassed when Karun Nair could get only one hand to it. That incident was a necessary stroke of luck Warner needed after a largely barren series, and after Matt Renshaw was beaten and bowled by a Umesh delivery that straightened down the line, he and Smith were quickly into stride by using the extra pace and bounce offered up by Dharamsala's hard pitch and thinner atmosphere.

Play 01:19
Steven Smith: highest average for a captain v India

Smith wasted little time to get moving, capitalising on any errors in line or length and at one point miscuing a hook at Umesh, so eager was he to get after the bowling. On another day the ball might have plopped into the gloves of Wriddhiman Saha, but here it fell safely.

Warner was a little more sluggish after that early chance, covering up in defence to ensure he did not miss any of Bhuvneshwar's inswingers, and on one occasion cuffing a boundary over the slips when trying to avoid a short ball. The arrival of spin helped Warner build momentum, as the Dharamsala surface offered the odd bit of spin but otherwise played in a friendly fashion in the morning session.

Kuldeep was called upon for a pair of overs before the lunch interval, but he too was struck for boundaries as Smith and Warner set a highly promising platform for the tourists.

Rahane and his bowlers reset their plans during the interval, focusing on greater economy while encouraging Kuldeep to maintain a full length and test Australia's batsmen on the drive. Warner seemed preoccupied with trying to cut or force off the back foot, and in trying to do so from a delivery well pitched up, he succeeded only in edging to slip.

Shaun Marsh, so stubborn in the second innings in Ranchi, flicked limply at an Umesh delivery and was taken down the leg side cheaply, before Peter Handscomb was out to a lovely piece of bowling from Kuldeep. The ball was tossed up and slower, drifting enough to drag Handscomb's bat away from his pad and then breaking back through the gap to splay the stumps.

Glenn Maxwell thought himself capable of muscling Kuldeep out of the attack and managed one lofted boundary, but he too was unable to be sure of which way the ball was turning. Two balls after reaching the rope, he went back to what he thought was a stock ball and instead found himself beaten and bowled by a googly.

Smith's earlier rapid scoring had slowed, and it was a subdued celebration on reaching three figures. He seemed likely to shepherd Matthew Wade to the tea break, but with five minutes to go edged an Ashwin drifter to slip, the ball after Wade had sneaked a bye from a ball that turned expansively.

Pat Cummins, Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon all offered momentary support to Wade, who played sensibly to ensure the visitors at least reached the 300 mark. But Kuldeep's return to the attack accounted for Cummins, before O'Keefe was run-out by the substitute fielder Shreyas Iyer, who many had expected to be playing in place of Kohli. Needing to win the match to claim the series, India's selectors had instead gambled on the extra bowler - Kuldeep's wiles offered the richest of rewards.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • srinivas bhanu on March 27, 2017, 6:10 GMT

    Kuldeep's wiles is one of the best thing which has happened to Indian cricket in the recent times.The guy was bowling as if he was playing his fiftieth Test match...!!!No doubt the master Shane Warne is mighty pleased with his pupils performance. I am being bit ambitious but has Kuldeep bowled the ball of the century when he gate crashed in to Maxwell's stumps in the first innings with that peach of a delivery. Looks like the Sachin Tendulkar of the Indian spin bowling has just emerged...!! Way to go young man...

  • cantwaittosee on March 26, 2017, 7:10 GMT

    Over 34.2. Aus needs Lyon bowling. Ball getting older loosing some zip. Hazelwood looking tired. Cant bowl the 2 pacers into the ground.

  • T20forever on March 26, 2017, 6:41 GMT

    Seems like Australia is ready for an another 200 over innings ..After this series, we won't see Cummins for a year and off ...

  • Vishu_the_cricklover on March 26, 2017, 6:35 GMT

    Australian spinners might struggle to get the turn out of this pitch. Considering Lyon's soar fingers and SOKs ineffectiveness, they should have gone with extra pacer in Jackson Bird. There's a vast difference in Finger and Wrist spinners.

  • Vishu_the_cricklover on March 26, 2017, 6:33 GMT

    @AussieNsw: You may call Pujara slow but he will slowly and steadily kill the intensity of Aussie bowlers. Unlike Ranchi Australia is 150 runs short here and even folded in just a day, so there's lot of time for India to score even at just under 3 per over and make Australia sweat under sun. This is going to be a result match and not a tame draw.

  • Vishu_the_cricklover on March 26, 2017, 6:31 GMT

    This is turning out to be a lovely series with both sides producing high intensity and top level cricket. For this decider match it seems India a batsman short and Australia a bowler. But considering the Ranchi Test India did well even when Kohli failed and if these two batsmen can play out another session even for 80 odd runs, Australian bowlers will feel the heat and might start leaking runs. We definitely don't need Sehwag here as pointed out by some fans, we have the best personnel in action with Pujara and Rahul. patience will win the game.

  •   Shobhit Singh on March 26, 2017, 6:22 GMT

    Well done by austrlia,true fast bowling by Cummins and Hazleneed .More nip more sharpness if you compare to indian pacer's.Cummins giving everything,not thinking about next ashes series or next match,in moment he bowled with heart. If aus has bird than in first season two or three wicket down.Deserve for appreciation. In first season indian pacers not trying many bouncers but austrlia did.Smith is very wise captain he knew Pujara is not attacking so square leg fielder is up than pujara manufactured shot for even single.But rahane had put square leg fielder put on boundry all the time so Smith and comapny made at least fifty run in this area with ease.But now its intersting to see how long aus pacers will go with this attitude .India need to pass on one more spell of hazlewood just after launch than after Indian team getting run with ease.Need to play cautiously one more spell five or six overs than after enjoy the batting.

  • cricfan81701815 on March 26, 2017, 6:18 GMT

    Well done to Kuldeep - absolute gem to get rid of Hanscombe and a beauty to dismiss Maxwell. AUS well short of what they needed,Smith will break his back carrying the rest of our batting line-up in the 1st innings of tests. Warner should have been out first ball and should have scored more,although 50 was a fair score. 1-135 or thereabouts at lunch to be all out for 300 is a great turnaround by IND. IND will capitalise, they'll lead by 200 + and from there it will only be a question of whether AUS can manage the draw (unlikely). Hoping AUS bowlers can bowl IND out for under 400 and we bat well in the 2nd dig, but that is wishful thinking. IND well in control of this match. Cheers

  • Saurabh Kanojia on March 26, 2017, 6:12 GMT

    need sehwag like player into this lineup

  • Abdul Momin on March 26, 2017, 6:12 GMT

    My prediction is right 65 for 1... at the end of lunch 170 for 1...Mark my words.. Chakde India

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