Dharamsala, March 25 (IANS) Chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav could not have asked for a better debut as India rode on his three-wicket haul to reduce Australia to 208/6 at tea on the first day of the fourth and final cricket Test here on Saturday.
From 131/1 at lunch, the hosts dismissed five Australian batsmen while conceding just 77 runs in the 30 overs bowled in the second session of play. At tea, Mathew Wade was batting on 13 while Pat Cummins had just come in to bat.
The biggest wicket was the prized scalp of visiting skipper Steve Smith (111 off 173 balls; 4x14) who continued his imperious form to bring up his third century of the series until Ravichandran Ashwin got the better of him.
This was Smith's 20th Test ton, his seventh against India in ten Tests and third in the series.
The right-hander did not let the fast bowlers settle down, taking most runs off Umesh Yadav (35) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (22). Smith also tackled spin well, mixing caution with aggression.
But the star of the session was Kuldeep (3/41), who surprised one and all with his craft on debut. The left-arm spinner made the most of the bounce off the pitch and turned the ball sharply with his variations leaving the batsmen flummoxed more often than not.
Kuldeep removed David Warner (56) shortly after lunch with the Aussie southpaw staying back on a fuller delivery that extracted bounce off the wicket taking the edge of the bat with skipper Ajinkya Rahane pouching it.
The last Test's saviours Shaun Marsh (4)and Peter Handscomb (8) did not last long. Marsh could not cope with Umesh's short delivery with the ball kissing his gloves through to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. Right-hander Handscomb went for the drive to what looked like a fuller delivery but the drift did the trick with the Aussie caught having too much gap between bat and pad and the ball beating his inside edge and knocking the bails off.
Kuldeep, whose best first class figures are 6/79, was bowling beautifully and barring Smith none of his teammates seemed to be picking him.
Glenn Maxwell was next to go as the in-form batsman failed to pick the wrong one after Kuldeep bowled with a scrambled seam with the ball crashing onto his stumps.
The biggest wicket though came towards the end of the second session. Smith, who until that point looked to be playing against a different bowling attack than his colleagues who huffed and puffed, played for the turn but the ball took the edge of his bat and Rahane pulled off another sharp catch at first slip.