India vs Australia Nagpur Test: Jadejas fifer puts India in drivers seat
Ravindra Jadeja (centre) celebrates a wicket during the opening day of the first Test between India and Australia in Nagpur on Thursday (February 9). Jadeja took five wickets as Australia was bowled out for 177. Photo: BCCI

India vs Australia Nagpur Test: Jadeja's fifer puts India in driver's seat

Ravindra Jadeja marked his return to international cricket with a five-wicket haul that knocked the stuffing out of Australian middle order and put India firmly in the driver’s seat on the opening day of the first Test in Nagpur on Thursday (February 9).

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Jadeja did bulk of the bowling on the Jamtha dustbowl, earning his 11th fifer (5/47) in 22 overs that helped India skittle Australia out for a paltry 177 after the visitors decided to take the first strike in the series-opener. Ravichandran Ashwin, who probably dominated the Aussie mind space more than his spin colleague, got 3/42 in 15.5 overs and in the process completed 450 wickets in Test cricket.

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In the morning, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj reduced Australia to 2 for 2 in 2.1 overs to provide India a terrific start before Jadeja and Ashwin ran through the spine of Australian batting line-up. Smith and Labuschagne handled the Indian spinners with a lot of confidence in the first session as Australia recovered from early jitters to reach 76 for two at lunch. From 84 for 2, it soon became 109 for 5. Peter Handscomb (29) and the counter-attacking Alex Carey (36) got quick runs to get the team past 150-run mark.

The Australians prepared for Ashwin’s guile and variations but perhaps forgot to factor in Jadeja’s impact on tracks that offer above average turn. There is no denying the fact that there is considerable turn and bounce on offer but Australian batters too were guilty of playing some bad shots. It seemed they got too much messed up in their heads and tried to tackle the track more than the bowler.

Later, Captain Rohit Sharma (56 not out) scored an authoritative half-century as India reached 77 for 1 at stumps. Openers Rohit, who hit nine fours and a six in his 69 ball unbeaten knock, and KL Rahul (20) put up a 76-run opening stand. Rahul’s lean patch continued as he was caught and bowled by Australian debutant Todd Murphy after making a 20-run contribution from 71 balls.

With pitch set to deteriorate further, Indian skipper’s decision to attack Nathan Lyon did pay dividends in the final hour. Two of his shots off Lyon stamped his class and authority — a forward defensive jab that rocketed to the fence between bowler and mid-off and a down the ground six.

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Meanwhile, former Australian captains Matthew Hayden and Steve Waugh have been left shell-shocked by the axing of Travis Head for the first Test against India, with the former saying the player himself was in disbelief after knowing his fate.

The Australian team management chose right-handed batter Peter Handscomb ahead of the 2021-22 Ashes “Player of the Series” Head, probably because the 29-year-old is a left-hander. The pre-match talk revolved around India preparing the Nagpur track to unsettle the Australian side packed with left-handers and that could have played a role in visitor’s choice of players.

Brief scores: Australia 1st innings: 177 all out in 63.5 overs (Marnus Labuschagne 49, Steve Smith 37; Ravindra Jadeja 5/47, Ravichandran Ashwin 3/42).

India 1st innings: 77 for 1 in 24 overs (Rohit Sharma 56 not out, KL Rahul 20; Todd Murphy 1/13).

(With Agency inputs)

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