India made a victorious start to their test series against Australia, beating the tourists inside three days in Nagpur, by an innings and 132 runs.
It further strengthened the home side’s grip on a place in the WTC Final to be played at the Oval in June, almost certainly against the same opponents.
It was a disappointing start to the series for Australia who may now look back on their decision to skip a warm-up match as a miscalculation, although debutant Todd Murphy did emerge from the match with credit.
However, for India, Ravindra Jadeja made a triumphant return to the international arena, whilst both Rohit Sharma and Ravindran Ashwin turned in major performances.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat, but soon found themselves in trouble with both openers gone inside the first three overs.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith helped rebuild the innings with a stand of 82, but Jadeja took three quick wickets to reduce the tourists to 109/5.
Peter Handscomb and Alex Carey added 53 for the sixth wicket, but, once Carey was out for 36, the end came quickly and Australia were all out for 177.
Jadeja took 5 – 47 and Ashwin 3-42.
India made a good start to their reply, with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul putting on 76 for the first wicket, until Rahul gave Todd Murphy his first wicket in test cricket.
Murphy would go on to claim more scalps, including the prized one of Virat Kohli, but Rohit was playing a captain’s innings, make batting look easy where others had struggled.
He would go on to make 120 before he was bowled by his opposite number Pat Cummins.
It was his ninth test century.
Any hopes that his dismissal would lead to an early end to the Indian innings were dashed when Jadeja and Axar Patel put on 88 for the eighth wicket until Jadeja, who was having a fine individual match, was out for 70.
Patel added 52 more with Mohammed Shami who made 37, including 3 sixes, before he was last man out for 84.
His efforts had helped India reach exactly 400 all out, a first innings lead of 223.
Murphy finished with figures of 7 – 124, overshadowing his spin partner Nathan Lyon, who could only manage the one wicket.
Any hopes that Australia had of saving the match evaporated as they lost wickets at regular intervals in their second innings. This time it was Ashwin who was the main threat, taking 5 – 37, whilst there were two each for Shami and Jadeja.
Smith did finish 25 not out, but he ran out of partners as his side were dismissed for just 77 second time round.
Key Talking Points
Jadeja Makes Stunning Return
Jadeja had not played for India since injuring a knee whilst fielding in the Asia Cup last August.
However, he showed what they have been missing with a fine return with ball and bat, taking seven wickets in the match, and scoring 70 runs.
He was rewarded with the Player of the Match award.
However, his performance was not without controversy. During Australia’s first innings, he was caught on camera taking an unknown substance from one of his team-mates and then rubbing his hands and fingers near the ball.
Although it was later claimed that it was not an illegal substance and was just cream used for medicinal purposes, Jadeja admitting acting in a way contrary to the spirit of cricket, and was fined 25% of his match fee.
Rohit leads from the front
Rohit led from the front for his side, playing a captain’s innings to put his side in a strong position and his contribution is in marked contrast to the struggles of the Australian opening pair of David Warner and Usman Khawaja, who managed just 17 runs between them in the course of the match.
Murphy stands tall
Whilst Australia had a match to forget, Murphy at least did not deserve to be on the inning side. The 22 year old bowled with fine control, and, if he had any nerves making his debut on such a stage, they were not in evidence.
Perhaps also he had the element of surprise. India had been working on how to combat the threat posed by Nathan Lyon in the nets, so would have known very little about the debutant before facing him in Nagpur.
Before the sides meet again in Delhi, they will surely be working on a plan as to how to negate him.
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES