Indore, India – Spinner Matthew Kuhnemann’s five-wicket haul and a 60 by Usman Khawaja helped Australia grab the early advantage after they dismissed India for 109 on Wednesday’s opening day of the third Test.
The tourists were 156-4 at stumps, leading India by 47 runs on a viciously turning pitch in Indore, as they look to fight back from two bruising defeats in the series.
Peter Handscomb, on seven, and Cameron Green, on six, were batting at close of play, spinner Ravindra Jadeja having taken all four Australian wickets.
The left-handed Khawaja stood out with his 21st Test half-century and a 96-run second-wicket stand with Marnus Labuschagne.
“I executed my plans, tried to score when I saw a scoring opportunity and respected the good ball. It’s not rocket science, it was good to get a partnership with Marnus,” Khawaja told broadcaster Star Sports.
“Felt like the start was the toughest time to bat with the new ball being inconsistent, but it was nice to get the partnership. It is not an easy wicket out there.”
Labuschagne, who tops the Test batsman rankings, chopped the ball onto his stumps on nought but won a reprieve when Jadeja was adjudged to have overstepped the crease. He eventually departed on 31.
Khawaja fell with an attempted sweep, caught at deep mid-wicket after putting Australia ahead of India’s first-innings total.
Stand-in skipper Steve Smith looked good in his knock of 26 before being caught behind.
But it was Kuhnemann who made Australia’s day after the hosts elected to bat first on a dry pitch, which turned from the start.
The left-arm spinner returned his maiden five-wicket haul in just his second Test and bowled out India soon after lunch with the help of senior spinner Nathan Lyon, who took three.
“Nathan has been fantastic with me,” said Kuhnemann.
“He said ‘Roll your sleeves and get into the contest, doesn’t really matter you are bowling to Rohit (Sharma) or anybody, they are the best in the world in these conditions. Just worry about yourself.’”
Australia introduced spin in the sixth over to instant reward, as Kuhnemann had captain Rohit stumped for 12.
Shubman Gill, recalled in place of the struggling KL Rahul, began to hit back with three fours but also fell to Kuhnemann, caught at slip by Smith for 21.
Lyon then bowled Cheteshwar Pujara for one with a delivery that spun hugely and stayed low.
Wickets kept tumbling as India slipped to 45-5 in the first hour of play.
“It was challenging,” said Indian batting coach Vikram Rathour. “But we didn’t play poor or rash cricket, we just had an off day as a batting unit.”
Virat Kohli looked positive in his knock of 22, but fell lbw to Todd Murphy, the third time the off-spinner has claimed the star batsman’s wicket in as many matches.
From the first ball of the day, returning left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc thought he had Rohit caught behind but the appeal was turned down.
Australia did not review, only for replays to show the batsman had nicked the ball. Three balls later they missed another opportunity that would have seen Rohit out lbw had it been referred to the TV umpire.
But Rohit, who hit a century in the first Test, did not last long and neither did the rest of the Indian batting.