UPDATES with quotes, details
Indian spinner Ravindra Jadeja said Thursday the Nagpur pitch was not a rank turner despite a five-wicket haul on his international return for the first Test against Australia.
Jadeja returned figures of 5-47 and fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took three more to bowl out Australia for 177 in the final session on a turning wicket.
In reply, India were 77 for one at stumps, with skipper Rohit Sharma on 56 and Ashwin, yet to score, at the crease. The hosts still trail Australia by 100 runs.
Rohit batted with ease on a pitch which a few Australian pundits suggested was “doctored” after reports said the bone-dry wicket was selectively watered to give undue advantage to the Indian spinners.
“It’s not a rank turner at all and for a first-day wicket it was slow and had low bounce,” Jadeja, a left-arm orthodox bowler who came back into the Indian side after a knee injury, told reporters.
“It was not like it was difficult to defend for the batsmen but as the match will progress it will turn more.”
Rohit began by hitting three boundaries off Australian skipper Pat Cummins’ first over, and put on 76 runs with opening partner KL Rahul, who made a laboured 20.
The Indian captain reached his fifty with a four off Nathan Lyon and remained sharp to see off the day’s play.
Rahul fell caught and bowled off debutant spinner Todd Murphy, who celebrated his first Test wicket.
Jadeja stood out with his guile, taking key wickets including those of Marnus Labuschagne (49) and Steve Smith (37) to end their third-wicket fightback.
Peter Handscomb (31) and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey (36) put on a partnership of 53 before Ashwin ended Carey’s spell at the crease to record his 450th Test wicket.
Handscomb said the pitch was tough to bat but took nothing away from the Indian bowlers.
“It definitely wasn’t easy out there,” said Handscomb, who returned to the Test team after four years. “The Indian team bowled really well as a unit and didn’t give us much to score off.”
Handscomb added: “It’s not how we wanted to start the series but by all means we’re still in this game. This can happen quickly. If we get on a roll tomorrow we can put ourselves in a good position.”
Jadeja’s double strike on successive balls soon after lunch rocked the tourists as he sent back Labuschagne and then trapped Matt Renshaw for a first-ball duck.
He later bowled Smith with a delivery that went through his bat and pad.
Ashwin and Jadeja kept up the charge to get into the Australian tail when the tourists took tea at 174-8, and added just three runs in the final session.
The tourists lost their openers quickly after electing to bat, with seamer Mohammed Siraj striking on his first ball to get Usman Khawaja trapped lbw for one.
Mohammed Shami raised the noise in the next over when the seamer bowled the left-handed David Warner for one.
Australia controversially left out in-form left-hand batsman Travis Head for the first match in the four-Test series.
India handed Test caps to Twenty20 sensation Suryakumar Yadav and wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat.