DHARAMSALA, India, March 25 (Reuters) - Steve Smith continued his prolific run with the bat and David Warner capitalised on an early reprieve to give Australia a strong start on the opening day of the fourth and final test on Saturday.
Smith was batting on 72 at lunch, his third 50-plus score in the series, with Australia on 131-1 and appearing in a good position to post a big first innings total against India.
Warner was not fully convincing but made 54 not out at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, which is hosting its first test.
Regular India skipper Virat Kohli missed the decider having failed to recover from the shoulder injury he had sustained in the drawn third test in Ranchi.
Kohli had played 54 consecutive tests for India but will have to watch from the sidelines as Ajinkya Rahane leads the hosts.
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 in-form opener for one.
Smith, the leading scorer of the series, looked characteristically fluent, while Warner, his partner in the flourishing 121-run partnership, was troubled by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Smith needed 67 balls to bring up his 50 and has hit 10 boundaries in his knock. Warner hit Ashwin over the mid-off for a six en route to his first fifty of the series.
While Australia fielded an unchanged squad, India replaced Kohli with debutant left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav in a bold move to go into the match with five bowlers.
The four-test series is level at 1-1. (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)