(Corrects Shaun Marsh’s score in paragraph 11)
* Smith scores third century of series
* Kuldeep impresses on debut
* Rahane leads India in Kohli’s absence
By Amlan Chakraborty
DHARAMSALA, India, March 25 (Reuters) - Australia skipper Steve Smith struck his third century of the series but Kuldeep Yadav claimed three wickets on debut to help India restrict the tourists to 208 for six at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final test on Saturday.
Matthew Wade was batting on 13 at the break with Pat Cummins yet to open his account at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium which made its debut as a test venue.
India received a jolt even before a ball was bowled when regular skipper Virat Kohli was ruled out with the shoulder injury he had sustained in the drawn third test in Ranchi.
Replacing Ishant Sharma in the Indian side, Bhuvneshwar Kumar swung the first ball of the match to induce an edge from Warner but Karun Nair spilled it at third slip.
India did not have to wait long for the breakthrough though.
In the next over, Umesh Yadav pushed one through Matt Renshaw’s gate and pegged back his off-stump to dismiss the opener for one.
Smith, who scored 111, and Warner laid the foundation for a big first innings total with a 134-run association during which Smith’s characteristic fluency contrasted Warner’s scratchy knock.
Warner hit a six off Ravichandran Ashwin but otherwise looked in discomfort against the off-spinner.
The opener brought up his first fifty of the series after Smith had reached his own, before Kuldeep led India’s fightback with brilliant display of wrist-spin bowling.
The 22-year-old, replacing Kohli in the side as part of India’s bold move to go in with five bowlers, generated extra bounce and the ball kissed the shoulder of Warner’s bat en route to India’s stop-gap skipper Ajinkya Rahane at slip.
Umesh dismissed Shaun Marsh for four before Kuldeep returned to torment the tourists during the second session which yielded five wickets for the hosts.
The Uttar Pradesh player disturbed Peter Handscomb’s stumps and then bamboozled Glenn Maxwell with a brilliant googly to peg back Australia.
Smith brought up his third century of the series, and 20th overall, in 150 balls and steered Australia past the 200-run mark before edging Ashwin to Rahane in the slip.
Smith, comfortably the leading scorer in the series, faced 173 balls during his composed knock, hitting 14 boundaries.
The four-test series is level at 1-1. (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)