Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin was India's best bowler on the first day of the fourth Test against Australia, picking up four wicketsReuters

Australia crumbled to India's spin yet again, before some much-needed rearguard action helped the visitors to a respectable position after the first day of the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.

India are looking for a whitewash in the four-match series, after already having won the series 3-0, and it all seemed to go according to plan in a fruitful second session for the hosts.

R Ashwin (four for 40) spearheaded the spin attack, after Ishant Sharma had struck with two early wickets, before Steven Smith, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson brought back some respectability to the Aussie scoreline.

The visitors, sans the injured Michael Clarke and Mitchell Starc, finished the day on 231 for eight, where at one point on 136 for seven, they looked like crashing to below 200 on a pitch, which had a few demons in it but not even remotely enough to justify the top order's poor batting.

Australia, choosing to bat first after winning the toss for the fourth straight time this series, got to the worst possible start when David Warner edged a simple catch to Virat Kohli at second slip off Ishant Sharma's bowling in just the second over of the innings.

Phil Hughes, who was impressive in the second innings of the previous Test in Mohali, came in with a purpose, paying some outstanding shots.

The left-hander looked easily the most comfortable among the Aussie batsmen and kept the scoreboard ticking along at a fair pace, with Ed Cowan at the other end, glad to drop anchor and let his partner have the bulk of the strike.

The difficult Kotla pitch playing a little up and down, though, tempered a couple of delightful cover drives from Hughes. One kept low from a good length and would have hit the batsman's laces had he played at it, while the next jumped from nowhere completely catching Hughes off guard.

That seemed to be the key to the dismissal of the No.3 batsman, with Sharma (two for 35), who had made the ball jump from a good length, a few balls earlier, forced one through the defences of Hughes, who made a well-played 45 (59 balls, 10x4).

The left-hander caught in two minds of whether to play forward or stay back to another good length delivery, saw an incoming ball take an inside edge and shatter the stumps with the score reading 71 for two.

Stand-in captain Watson along with Cowan saw Australia through to lunch on 94 for two without too many worries, before the all too familiar Aussie collapse unravelled.

Cowan (38) was the first to go in the second session, bowled around the legs off the bowling of R Ashwin, while attempting an ill-advised sweep.

Watson did not last much longer, falling to a beauty from Ravindra Jadeja (two for 34). The Aussie skipper was drawn forward by a well-flighted delivery, which spun after pitching allowing MS Dhoni to calmly whip off the bails.

Watson, who made 17 (56 balls, 3x4), will cursing himself though, because he only missed the ball completely as he played across the line trying to flick the ball through onside; incidentally this was Jadeja's sixth dismissal of the Australia captain in the series, with the five other being Clarke.

The only dodgy decision of the day - courtesy Aleem Dar -- saw Matthew Wade, puzzlingly returning instead of Brad Haddin, given caught at short leg off Ashwin's bowling, when replays showed the ball might have only hit the pad on its way to Murali Vijay's hands, leaving the Aussies wobbling on 117 for five.

Smith, who had made a really positive start to his innings after coming in following the wicket of Cowan, went into his shell as Glenn Maxwell, in for Moises Henriques, looked to take the attack to the Indian spinners.

A couple of fours and sixes later, however, the Aussie all-rounder succumbed to Jadeja, caught at mid-on while going for a ridiculous slog over midwicket against the spin.

Mitchell Johnson, replacing the injured Mitchell Starc, was befuddled by Ashwin, shouldering arms to a carom ball, which went with the arm and knocked off stump off the ground. Such was the bemusement of Johnson following the dismissal, that he had to ask the umpire if he had been bowled before trudging off the field in dismay.

Australia were now teetering on 136 for seven, when Smith and Peter Siddle built a face-saving partnership for the eighth wicket.

The duo took their time and frustrated the Indian spinners, in the process putting on 53 from 27.2 overs, before Smith lost his wicket.

Ashwin produced a ball to turn sharply with Smith only managing an inside edge, which was well taken by Ajinkya Rahane, making his debut, at short leg.

India thought they were almost through the Aussie batting at 189 for eight, but the hosts were in for a rude awakening as Siddle (47 in 125 balls) carried on his merry ways with James Pattinson looking solid at the other end.

The two tail-enders batted till the close of play, giving their own top-order batsmen a lesson in Test match batting.