Adelaide: Australia's David Warner paid a fitting tribute to his deceased teammate Phillip Hughes by cracking a rollicking 145 before India clawed back with three quick blows to share the honours on an emotionally charged opening day of the first cricket Test here today.
Opting to bat first, Australia rode on Warner's 10th Test century and were cruising along comfortably before India struck three vital blows at the fag end of the day to reduce the hosts to 354 for six at the Adelaide Oval.
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David Warner celebrates his century. Pic/ PTI
The home team was comfortably placed at 258 for two when Warner became debutant spinner Karn Sharma's maiden victim, which triggered a collapse of sorts with Mitchell Marsh (41), night-watchman Nathan Lyon (3) and Brad Haddin (0) falling in quick succession to help India stage a fightback.
Steven Smith was unbeaten on 72 when stumps were drawn for the day with four balls still to be bowled. Earlier, the stadium witnessed a gamut of emotions before the commencement of the match as spectators clapped for exactly 63 seconds as a mark of respect for Hughes. Both teams wore black arm bands while the Australians had Hughes' Test cap No 408 inscribed on their jerseys.
But nothing was more poignant than Warner, who was at his attacking best, but at the same time was finding it difficult to keep his emotions under check. When he reached a personal score of 63, he raised his bat and looked heavenward as a tribute to his mate. On reaching his century, Warner again broke down and skipper Michael Clarke, batting at the other end, came over and gave him a hug.
Australia had a cause for concern as Clarke retired hurt on 60 due to a recurring back spasms, after having added 118 runs for the third wicket with Warner. Clarke faced 84 balls hitting nine fours in the process. Warner was finally out after facing 163 balls and striking 19 boundaries. He holed out in the deep mid-wicket region where Ishant Sharma took a catch off Karn's bowling.
Warner was severe on the Indian pacers, especially the wayward Varun Aaron (2/95), who came in for a lot of punishment. Even Mohammed Shami (2/83) was not spared while debutant Karn (1/89 in 23 overs) paid the price for his inexperience. Against Karn, Warner used his feet to good effect and repeatedly lofted him apart from playing some glorious drives. Senior most pacer Ishant was the only bowler, who ended up with a reasonably economical figures of 1/56 in 20 overs.
After chasing leather for much of the first two sessions, in the post-tea session, India fought back in the match and showed some sense of purpose. The older ball didn't help their bowlers though as runs continued to flow at a consistent pace, thanks primarily to Warner. The Australian 250-run mark came up in the 56th over while the opening batsman added a brisk 50 runs off 76 balls with Smith.
Their stand didn't go much further though as Warner holed out in the deep an over later. He walked off to a rousing reception, whilst pointing his bat to the skies. India hoped for a quick couple wickets at this juncture, but were thwarted by an 87-run stand for the fourth wicket between Smith and Mitchell Marsh (41 off 87 balls). The hosts' 300-run mark came up in good time, in the 70th over, and six overs later Smith brought up his ninth Test fifty off 90 balls and with the help of six fours.
India's only hope thereafter was the second new ball and it was immediately taken when due. Aaron provided the breakthrough with Marsh caught at gully by Kohli and then Shami removed Lyon soon afterwards. Shami redeemed his day with another late strike, having Haddin caught behind.
In the post-lunch session, Warner had struck his 10th Test hundred as he put on a century stand with Clarke. The Australian captain retired hurt in the 44th over of the innings, about half an hour before tea, as he hurt his back fending a short ball from Ishant. Clarke had earlier, on 38, survived a close caught-behind call against Aaron in the 36th over. The very next over Warner reached his century, his fifth in 2014, off only 106 balls and inclusive of 14 fours. Two overs later, Clarke too celebrated his half-century.
The Australian skipper got to this 28th landmark in Test cricket after facing 69 balls and hitting eight boundaries. Later in the same over, 39th of the innings, the pair brought up their 100-run partnership off just 123 balls. The hosts' 200-run mark then came up two overs later.
The morning saw an emotional outpouring as tributes were paid to Hughes before play began. Both teams lined up behind his number 408 (painted on the turf).
In the absence of injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami began the proceedings and straight-away went around the wicket to openers Warner and Chris Rogers (9). Aaron was handed the new-ball ahead of Ishant and the two bowlers sprayed the ball in their opening spells. Warner was off to a flying start as he dealt in boundaries, hitting six fours, and raced to 28 off just 13 balls within the first three overs.
The first bouncer of the Test series arrived in the fourth over from Aaron and the crowd applauded it handsomely. But the flat pitch meant that the Indian bowlers couldn't utilise the new ball properly and Warner continued scoring at a brisk pace, bringing up the Australian fifty in only the eighth over.
Ishant had been introduced into the attack two overs earlier and he duly removed Rogers who was caught at second slip by Shikhar Dhawan.
Shane Watson (14) came to the crease thereafter and he was welcomed by a spurt of bouncers and short deliveries as Aaron and Shami regained some semblance of control. But Warner at the other end couldn't be tamed as he brought up his 14th Test fifty in the 15th over, reaching the milestone off only 45 balls, with nine fours.
Spin was introduced into the attack as early as the 18th over of the innings and the two batsmen looked to settle down. But Watson was troubled by incoming deliveries from the Indian medium-pacers and didn't look comfortable in the middle at all. He was finally dismissed in the 19th over, caught at second slip off Aaron.
That brought out Clarke to the crease and he was given a standing ovation by the crowd for marshalling their cricket community bravely in the last two weeks.