x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

India v Australia: Clarke and Ashwin step up on day 1

Captain's hundred in bail-out act after the spinner had hit the visitors with a six.

Captain Michael Clarke led the fightback for Australia with a wonderfully crafted unbeaten century after Ravichandran Ashwin had single-handedly put India in charge on the opening day of their Test series in Chennai.

Clarke (103) was given a major let-off when, on 41, he sealed his hundred in the final over of the day, but he was aided by a fine innings of 68 from debutant Moises Henriques, with the pair putting on 151 for the sixth wicket.

That came after Ashwin had managed to cut short Australia's good start to leave the tourists and 153 for five. The off-spinner finished the day with figures of 6-88, while Ravindra Jadeja picked up a late scalp as Australia finished on 316 for seven.

India began the day by handing Harbhajan Singh his 100th Test appearance as well giving seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar his debut.

Both proved ineffective as openers David Warner and Ed Cowan scored a brisk pace. Warner was dropped in the ninth over, Ashwin's first, when he edged to Virender Sehwag at slip only to see a straightforward chance shelled.

Warner was handed another life when Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to take a tough stumping chance off Ashwin - a failing he rectified when he whipped the bails off to remove Cowan for 29.

Phillip Hughes lasting 15 uncomfortable balls for six before edging Ashwin onto his stumps with an ungainly cut. Shane Watson and Warner fell to Ashwin shortly after the lunch interval.

Ashwin had his fifth wicket when Wade played down the wrong line and was adjudged lbw to leave Australia reeling on 153 for five.

Clarke was given a lifeline shortly before the tea interval when umpire Kumar Dharmasena failed to spot a bat-pad catch - again off the bowling of Ashwin.

All-rounder Henriques, making his first appearance in Tests, showed maturity to help Clarke steady the ship in the second session. Their partnership of 151 runs ended late on when the latter was trapped in front after missing a sweep at Ashwin.

Mitchell Starc was bowled by Jadeja in the next over, but Australia finished on a positive note with the thought that batting fourth on this pitch will not be easy.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia said it planned to play the second Test against India in Hyderabad as scheduled next week despite deadly bombings there Thursday.

"My expectation would be everything would go ahead as planned," said Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who is with the team in Chennai. "The team were very comfortable [with security], everything has gone absolutely to plan.

"We will liaise with the relevant authorities over the course of the next few days and make any necessary assessments," said Sutherland.

"The players are very focused on this Test... No one's indicated concerns at the moment."

* Agencies