A gritty half-century from an ailing Matt Renshaw and some late Mitchell Starc fireworks pulled Australia back from the brink against a persistent Indian attack Thursday on the opening day of the first Test.

The visitors, who elected to bat on what seemed a typical turning Indian wicket, were 256 for nine at stumps in Pune with Starc batting on 57 off 58 balls and Josh Hazlewood with him at the crease on one.

b’David Warner was bowled by Umesh. Reuters’

Indian seamer Umesh Yadav claimed four wickets while the spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took two each at the country’s newest Test venue.

Renshaw, who was forced to retire in the morning session due to a stomach bug before returning to the fray, was the anchor of the innings, top-scoring with 68 but it was Starc who provided the main entertainment.

Coming in at number eight, Starc put on an unbeaten 51-run stand with Hazlewood to lift the visitors from a precarious 205 for nine.

Starc, better known for his fast-bowling, caught the Indian attack by surprise by carting them around the ground late in the day in a blistering innings which featured five boundaries and three sixes.

It was the ninth Test fifty of his career. His highest Test score is 99.

Earlier Renshaw came back to bat again after the dismissal of skipper Steve Smith (27) just before the tea break to register his second Test fifty in his fifth game.

Renshaw, who was involved in an 82-run opening stand with David Warner, struck 10 fours and a six during his 156-ball stay which ended when he edged a ball from Ashwin and was caught by Murali Vijay in the slips.

Smith formed crucial partnerships with Shaun Marsh (16) and Peter Handscomb (22) before being dismissed by Ashwin.

Umesh then took charge with another beautiful spell as he struck on consecutive deliveries to send back Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon for ducks.

The visitors’ batting saw a big slump after a good first session as they slipped from 119-1, losing their next nine wickets for just 86 runs.

In the opening session, Australia’s batting charge was halted with the key wicket of Warner (38) and the temporary retirement of Renshaw on 36.

Warner, who had tackled the Indian spinners with good feet movement, was bowled by Umesh off a good length delivery that hit the bat en route to stumps just before the break.

Feature image source: Reuters