NAGPUR (Reuters): Ravichandran Ashwin tore through Australia in their second innings to set up a comprehensive victory for India by an innings and 132 runs inside three days of the spin-dominated opening test on Saturday.
Australia had been on the back foot since posting a below-par 177 on a treacherous track, and India’s victory appeared just a matter of time after the home side amassed 400 to claim a hefty lead of 223.
Ashwin (5-37) then hollowed out Australia’s top order with his nagging accuracy, and the tourists were skittled out for 91, losing all 10 wickets in one frenetic session.
Steve Smith’s unbeaten 25 was the highest individual score in Australia’s sorry-looking second innings scoreboard, which is likely to prompt some soul-searching heading into the second test in New Delhi from Friday.
Off-spinner Todd Murphy claimed 7-124 in his debut test in what was the only highlight for world number one Australia, who still lead World Test Championship (WTC) standings ahead of India.
Rohit Sharma’s majestic 120 had put India in the box seat and all-rounders Axar Patel (84) and Ravindra Jadeja (70) drove home the advantage on day three of the contest.
Mohammed Shami (37) chipped in with a breezy cameo down the order before India folded for 400 on the stroke of lunch.
Australia simply capitulated against the Indian spinners in their second innings, with Ashwin wreaking havoc.
The off-spinner sent back both the Australia openers, David Warner (10) and Usman Khawaja (5), and Jadeja removed Marnus Labuschagne (17) to effectively snuff out Australia’s chances of making India bat again.
Smith hung on but at the other end, it was an endless procession of batsmen who surrendered on the bone-dry track where the ball often kept low and spun unpredictably.
Alex Carey, one of the only four Australia batsmen who managed double digits in the second innings, tried to sweep his way out of the trouble but, like in the first innings, fluffed his reverse sweep against Ashwin and departed for 10.
Rohit said the century, his first since taking over as India’s test captain, felt special considering the importance of the game.
“When playing a series like this, it’s important to start well. I’m happy I could put up a performance which could help the team,” he said.
Barring Murphy’s memorable debut, there was hardly any positive for Australia and captain Pat Cummins felt batters who got set could not quite capitalise on those starts.
“In the first innings, the wicket spun but it wasn’t unplayable. Would have loved another 100 or so runs and put a bit more pressure on their first innings,” rued Cummins.
Jadeja, who claimed 5-47 in Australia’s first innings, and picked two wickets in the second was adjudged player-of-the-match.