India pummel Australia in three days after Ashwin magic
NAGPUR, India, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Ravichandran Ashwin tore through Australia to set up India's comprehensive victory 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 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium where the ball kept low and spun unpredictably.
Rohit Sharma mastered those conditions to hit a majestic 120 and all-rounders Axar Patel (84) and Ravindra Jadeja (70) proved while the pitch was difficult, it was certainly not unplayable.
Even number 10 batter Mohammed Shami chipped in with a breezy 37 to help India amass 400 before they were all out on the stroke of lunch claiming a chunky lead of 223.
Ashwin (5-37) then wreaked havoc and Australia were skittled out for 91 in 32.3 overs, their lowest ever score in India, losing all 10 wickets in one single frenetic session.
Steve Smith's unbeaten 25 was the highest individual score in Australia's sorry-looking scoreboard, which is likely to prompt some soul-searching heading into the second test beginning in New Delhi on Friday.
Off-spinner Todd Murphy's 7-124 in his debut test was the only highlight for world number one Australia, who still lead World Test Championship (WTC) standings ahead of India.
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," Cummins said.
"Would have loved another 100 or so runs and put a bit more pressure on their first innings."
Australia's spin frailties were laid bare in the second innings when five of their batters fell lbw to Indian spinners.
Ashwin 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 avoiding an innings defeat.
Smith hung on but at the other end, it was an endless procession of batsmen who surrendered to the guile of the Indian spinners.
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.
Ashwin claimed his 31st five-wicket haul in test cricket but Jadeja, who claimed 5-47 in Australia's first innings, and picked two wickets in the second was adjudged player-of-the-match.
"I focus more on my batting now because it's a crucial number," Jadeja said of his place in the batting order.
"Batting at five-six-seven, whenever the team needs, I have to go out there and put myself in pressure situations."
Jadeja was fined 25% of his match fee and was slapped with a demerit point for applying, without the umpires' permission, a soothing cream to his swollen finger during the match.
Rohit became the first India captain to hit centuries in all three formats in international cricket.
"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.
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