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Australia opt to bat against spin-heavy India in Pune opener

By Sudipto Ganguly

PUNE, India (Reuters) - Australia captain Steve Smith won the toss and opted to bat against a spin-heavy India in the first match of the four-test series between the top two teams in the world on Thursday.

The touring side, who have lost their last nine tests in Asia, went in with two spinners in Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in the Western Indian city of Pune, which is making its debut as a test centre.

Australia dropped Usman Khawaja from the team with brothers Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh making the team on a dry surface expected to offer considerable turn for the slow bowlers.

"It's very dry and I don't think it will bounce a great deal. I think it will take spin from ball one so hope we can post a good first-up total," Smith said at the toss.

"(Pitch) looks a little bit different to the T20 games we have played out here.

"Boys are excited about this challenge. We gonna have to adapt to the conditions out here and hopefully we can play some good cricket first up this morning."

World's top-ranked side India, who are unbeaten in their last 19 tests, went in with three spinners.

Off-spinner Jayant Yadav was drafted in alongside slow-bowling colleagues Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who are ranked number one and two respectively among test bowlers.

Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was dropped from the side that beat Bangladesh by 208 runs in Hyderabad earlier this month.

"We'd have loved to bat first as well but I don't come to the toss expecting anything," India captain Virat Kohli said.

"We lost three tosses against England and we ended up winning  the series four-nil. If you win the toss, it's a little bit of advantage but if you don't, you obviously got to execute your skills much better. We look at it as a challenge."

Teams

Australia: David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Steve Smith (captain), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Starc, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon

India: Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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