Michael Clarke scored an unbeaten century to guide Australia to stumps on day one of the first Test against India in Chennai on 316 for seven.
His 103 came from 169 balls and although he was given excellent support from debutant Moises Henriques, through Ravichandran Ashwin's five-wicket haul, India kept themselves very much in the game.
Henriques came to the crease with the score reading 153 for five, showing his mettle with 68 after David Warner had proved his fitness by hitting 59.
Ashwin finished the day with six for 88 and Ravindra Jadeja was the only other player to take a wicket.
On a bone-dry surface, Clarke had no hesitation in batting first after calling correctly at the toss. India brought in Murali Vijay as Virender Sehwag’s opening partner and Harbhajan Singh played ahead of Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja retained his bowling all-rounder spot.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was handed his Test debut as MS Dhoni opted to go in with five bowlers. Meanwhile, Australia went in with the same team they had named earlier in the week, with Moises Henriques making his debut.
Ed Cowan and David Warner made a quick start as the new-ball bowlers failed to make an impact on a wicket that seemed unresponsive to their bowling. Spin was introduced as early as the fifth over, after 22 minutes of play, while the 50-run partnership came up in 10 overs. Their stand was finally broken when Ashwin came on to bowl in his first Test at his home ground.
It was the 15th over and Cowan (29), having already hit a six, went for another big hit and was stumped. Phil Hughes, coming in at number three, was an early casualty, playing on a wide delivery again from Ashwin. Australia were 72 for two but Warner and Shane Watson, at number four, steadied the ship until lunch.
Warner was dropped off Sehwag and then Dhoni missed a stumping as well, and he took advantage to score a half-century, scoring 59 runs off 93 balls. He hit six fours and put up 54 runs for the third wicket with Watson, as Australia finished the first session at 126 for two.
Post-lunch, Ashwin triggered a collapse in the middle order and it seemed that India would wrap up the innings within the hour. Warner and Watson (28) were both adjudged leg before in successive overs, and later Matthew Wade (12) was out similarly, leaving the visitors reeling at 153 for five, but his dismissal brought Clarke and debutant Henriques to the crease, and they resisted the bowling until late in the day.
Clarke was more elegant, having experienced Test match pressure in these conditions and he played the spinners well, using his feet to counter them. He hit 11 fours and one six in all, in what was going to be a pivotal innings for his side in this game.
Henriques, on the other hand, was a bit pensive against the spinners early in his innings but settled down to play some decent strokes. He hit five fours and went on to complete his maiden half-century, an innings of reassurance that Australia had gambled well on this up-and-down pitch.
The duo added 151 runs for the sixth wicket, with the runs coming at a decent clip and Australia crossing the 300-run mark after it seemed improbable at one point. But just as stumps were around the corner, Ashwin came back to bowl, with the just roughed-up second new ball and snared Henriques for his sixth wicket of the day.
At the other end, Jadeja bowled Mitchell Starc (3). Nevertheless, there was a final flourish for Australia, as Clarke completed his 23rd Test ton off the penultimate ball of the day. He remained unbeaten on 103 and at stumps the score was 316 for seven in 95 overs.
Ashwin was the most successful bowler with figures of six for 88, while Jadeja was the only other wicket-taker with one for 56. Harbhajan went wicketless in 19 overs bowled in his 100th Test, while Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar also did not get any rewards for their efforts.
Ashwin on his fabulous bowling spell: "I don’t think I bowled poorly against England. Sometimes your efforts pay off, sometimes they don't. Today I got wickets and I had changed something in my bowling stance in the build-up to the series.
"As you can see, it worked very well. This is my home ground and it is a dream come true to play this Test. Chepauk has never looked so beautiful before. I will have no regrets if this is to be my last Test match."
Henriques on his steady debut innings: "It seemed that you could play 20-30 balls and then things will calm down. It didn’t pan out like that, the pitch is very difficult to bat on and Ashwin was not bowling any loose balls. It was a tough situation when I came in and I just tried sticking around.
"It will be key tomorrow morning, in the first hour, that Michael Clarke continues scoring for us. The pitch isn't going to get any better so we have to score some more runs."
© Cricket World 2013
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