Australia may yet lose the first Test and the series against India, but their bid to erode the aura of invincibility surrounding the hosts’ star spinners started well in Pune.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, billed at No.1 and No.2 respectively on the ICC Test bowling rankings, featured prominently in the lead-up to the four-Test series, which started with Australia reaching 9-256 at stumps on Thursday.
Ashwin had just brought up wicket No.250 in just his 45th Test – bettering the world record of Australian icon Dennis Lillee, who achieved the milestone in 48 Tests.
Jadeja grabbed 26 wickets at 25.84 in India’s recent series against England, including a career-best haul of 7-48 in one innings.
If Australia are able to limit the influence of the two tweakers over the next six weeks it will go a long way to them ending a horror run on the subcontinent.
The early signs were positive. Ashwin and Jadeja shared four wickets – including that of opener Matt Renshaw – on Thursday but sent down a combined 58 overs.
“We’ve watched a lot of footage and we’ve worked out different ideas,” Renshaw said after top-scoring with 68.
“They’re two class bowlers. You can tell why they’re the No.1 and No.2 bowlers in the world.
“It’s quite hard to attack Ashwin, when he can get some to turn past the bat and get some to go straight on.
“I thought we played them quite well, we just worked on what we spoke about.”
A cracking dustbowl likened to the surface of Mars by Shane Warne made the challenge even more difficult, but Renshaw wasn’t intimidated.
“I’ve never seen a pitch like that so I just went in with a pretty open mind and tried to do what I normally do in Australia, which is try and bat as long as possible and try and wear the bowlers down,” he said.
“It’s probably a bit harder to wear them down when they’re spinners but I just try and keep my plan pretty simple.
“It’s the first time I’ve faced a spinner opening the bowling … facing the best bowler in the world is a great challenge in itself, whether it be with the new ball or an old ball.”
India assistant coach Sanjay Bangar was impressed with how Australia handled their first trial by spin.
“They were working hard, they were trusting their defence, used their feet quite a bit,” Bangar said.
“We could see that they really applied themselves against our spinners.”