Adelaide: David Warner scattered whatever nerves or doubts there may have been ahead of Australia’s resumption of the international season following Phillip Hughes’ death with a blazing start to the first Test. Warner hit seven of his first 15 deliveries for four on the way to his fifth century in seven Tests in 2014 after Michael Clarke chose to bat on an easy-paced Adelaide Oval pitch. Clarke motored to 60 before he retired hurt, and Steven Smith breezed to an unbeaten 72. India regained some ground with the second new ball producing three late strikes.
The day belonged to Warner, as he shredded India’s attack for 145 off 163 deliveries before mis-hitting the debutant legspinner Karn Sharma to deep midwicket. India’s new-ball pair of Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron were taken for 178 in 34.2 overs, and the visitors would have suffered more had it not been for Ishant Sharma’s discipline.
Far more worrying for Australia than India’s attack was what seemed to be a relapse of Clarke’s chronic back problem. Clarke’s partnership with Warner had grown to 118 when he grimaced as soon as he avoided a short ball in the 44th over, and had to leave the field after some doing stretching and talking to the team physio. Barring the odd play-and-miss and some edged boundaries, Clarke had batted with assurance.
India stuck to their strategy of bowling round the wicket to Warner throughout the first session, even though it had proved expensive enough already. They may have probably wanted to deny Warner width, but still ended up providing plenty of room, particularly at the start, and the opener punished them. He was especially severe on Aaron who went for three fours in his opening over, driven first ball through extra cover and flayed backward of point twice. Shami got the same treatment in his second over.
Apart from a probing first over from Shami to Rogers, India’s fast bowlers could not find much swing or seam and the ball came on nicely for Warner to hit on the up freely. The first bouncer the Indians tried was in the fourth over when Aaron made Warner crouch. The batsman’s response was to play an upper cut the next ball, another bouncer, for four.
Warner was already on 37 off 20 when Ishant came on and bowled a maiden to the opener. In his next over, he slanted one across to have Chris Rogers nicking a drive to second slip for 9. Shane Watson eased himself to a start in his first Test since March, before chasing a wide one from Aaron on 14 and slashing to second slip, where Shikhar Dhawan made no mistake again.
Warner pulled Aaron for successive fours to reach his fifty off 45 balls and moved to 100 off 105, Virat Kohli allowing an easy single with mid-off pushed to the deep. Warner looked up to the skies with emotion each time, something he also did on reaching 63, the score Hughes was batting on when he was felled by a bouncer.
Clarke was welcomed by a sharp bouncer from Aaron, as Watson had been by Ishant. Even as Clarke gradually settled down, Warner kept drilling the fast bowlers through the off side.
Shami began from over the wicket to Warner after lunch but wasn’t disciplined for long enough and leaked runs to Clarke. He did start the session with three successive dot balls to Warner, who pushed the fourth in the air, but Kohli had placed point too deep for it to be a chance.
Karn made little impact with his largely flattish trajectory and up-and-down lengths and Warner slog-swept and reverse-swept him for boundaries. Apart from Warner’s ever-increasing score, India’s over-rate was also a concern for Kohli in his first Test as captain as they managed 50 in the first two sessions.
Warner’s failed attempt to clear the field soon after tea took care of Kohli’s first worry, and M Vijay’s introduction lifted the over-rate. It also allowed a cautious Mitchell Marsh to bat himself in against harmless part-time offspin as Kohli used his slow bowlers for 13 successive overs.
Smith was in superb touch, using his feet regularly to spin and driving and clipping the fast bowlers elegantly. Marsh developed enough confidence to step out and drive Karn against the turn through midwicket.
Vijay was used for as many as 12 overs as India waited for the second new ball. Ishant Sharma deservingly took it as soon as it was available, but offered Smith a couple of freebies on the pads, the second of which took the batsman to 63, bringing another emotional acknowledgment.
With Australia having reached 345 for 3, India appeared to be wasting the second new ball too when out of nowhere, Aaron got one to kick from a tight line and a surprised Marsh edged to gully on 41. Shami too found some control to go with his pace. The nightwatchman Nathan Lyon could not make it to stumps, and neither could Brad Haddin, edging Shami behind off what turned out to be the last ball of the day.
ustralia 6 for 354 (Warner 145, Smith 72*, Clarke 60) v India