Another Michael Clarke masterclass helped Australia avoid total collapse on Day One of the opening Test against India at the MA Chidambaram stadium on Friday.
The Australian captain remained unbeaten on 103 even as stumps were drawn, his 169-ball innings inclusive of 11 hits to the fence and one over it.
Giving him company was Peter Siddle (on one) as the visitors amassed 316 for seven (95 overs) on the day.
It was Clarke’s 23rd Test hundred, his sixth against India, and continued his recent run of good form as well as his impressive record against India. The 31-year-old, who made his debut in Bangalore (in a 2004) with an impressive 151, had scored 600-plus runs when India toured Down Under last year, including a triple hundred.
Clarke albeit had a huge reprieve (when on 39) as umpire Kumar Dharmasena ruled him not out even though he had clearly hit the ball (off Ashwin).
Giving him ample support during the course of his innings was debutant Moises Henriques (64) -- the two putting on 151 runs in a vital sixth wicket partnership.
Earlier, a six-wicket haul by R Ashwin helped India to a commanding position. The spinner, playing his first Test in front of his home fans, had figures of six for 88.
Ravindra Jadeja took the only other wicket to fall.
India sprung a surprise by dropping Pragyan Ojha, their best bowler against England, and handing a Test debut to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who became the 276th player to represent India in the longer format.
It was Australia who won the toss and Michael Clarke had no hesitation in opting to bat first. David Warner and Ed Cowan (29) made an aggressive start, hitting both the new ball bowlers for a slew of boundaries.
This prompted Dhoni to introduce Harbhajan Singh, playing in his 100th Test, as early as the sixth over and R Ashwin, playing in his first Test on his home ground, in the ninth over.
The latter was unfortunate not to get a wicket off his third ball, Virender Sehwag, at first slip, making a mess of an opportunity provided by Warner (on 18).
The 50-run partnership for the opening wicket was attained in 10 overs and soon after, Cowan stepped out of his crease to hit Harbhajan for a straight six.
Ashwin though provided India a much needed breakthrough in his fourth over, having Cowan stumped. The opener’s 45-ball knock was inclusive of four hits to the fence and one over it and he helped Warner put 64 runs for the first wicket.
Phil Hughes (6) didn’t last long, dragging an Ashwin delivery onto his stumps.
In came Shane Watson (28) and he combined well with Warner for the third wicket, the latter reached his sixth Test fifty with a couple of Harbhajan. It had been a resolute innings.
A couple by Watson (off Jadeja) helped raised the 50-run partnership for the third wicket in the penultimate over before lunch. As the first session came to an end, the visitors had made 126 for two (after 34 overs).
The second began in the worst possible manner for Australia. Ashwin struck in the fourth ball after resumption, trapping Watson leg before. The television replays were inconclusive but then there’s no DRS in this series.
The visitors were yet to recover when Ashwin also removed Warner -- another leg before decision -- but a pretty straightforward one.
Warner’s 93-ball knock was inclusive of six boundaries and he was involved in two key partnerships -- with Cowan for the opening wicket and then 54 runs with Watson for the third.
Michael Clarke, 11 short off 7,000 Test runs reaches the milestone with a boundary past point off Harbhajan. The Australian captain became the 10th batsman from his country, and 42nd overall, to reach the landmark.
Ashwin completed a five-wicket haul, his sixth in Test cricket, by trapping Wade (12) plumb in front even as Australia slumped to 153 for five. If the bowler’s opening spell figures (11-2-30-2) made for an impressive read, his second (9-2-19-3) was even better.
However, debutant Moises Henriques provided his captain with some much-needed support. The two put on a fifty-plus partnership for the sixth wicket, taking the visitors past the 200-run mark in the process.
If the visitors had had the better of the opening session, the home team had completed turned the tide in the second, reducing the visitors to 215 for five at tea (after 66 overs).
The fortunes changed ends again after play resumed. In the fifth ball of the final session Clarke hoisted Ashwin over long on for a maximum, the shot helping him complete his half century in an emphatic manner.
It was the Australian captain’s 26th Test half century, his sixth against India. Both he and Henriques accelerated the scoring rate soon after, the latter also completing a well-deserved fifty in the process.
The two took their team past the 300-run mark. However, it was Ashwin yet again who provided India a vital breakthrough by trapping Henriques (68) plumb in front.
Mitchell Starc (3) was foxed by Jadeja and had his stumps shattered. Having been made to wait for a while for his hundred, Clarke came out of his crease to smash Jadeja to the fence in the day’s last over to reach the three-figures.