Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's six-wicket haul and Australian captain Michael Clarke's century saw the spoils shared on day one of the first Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, Chennai on Friday.

The Australians' choice to bat first on a dry pitch, which brought the introduction of spin in the seventh over, backfired initially - before Clarke and debutant Moises Henriques combated Ashwin's opening blows.

The visitors' intent to attack was an early onset, with openers David Warner and Ed Cowan lashing 64 runs inside 15 overs. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, afforded the new ball on debut, was inadequate. Fast bowler Ishant Sharma, arguably hampered by ongoing ankle injury concerns, proved expensive.

The arrival of Ashwin, preferred to fellow slow bowler Pragyan Ojha in the starting XI, stemmed the flow - and sparked a capitulation that brought two wickets before lunch and three more shortly after.

Cowan was stumped for 29 and the left-handed Phil Hughes managed a mere six before chopping a short, turning delivery onto his stumps. All-rounder Shane Watson promised more en route to 28, but ultimately under-delivered. Like Watson, opener David Warner was trapped lbw - plumb as they come - to Ashwin.

Warner's vigil cherished two incidents of fortune, with slip fielder Virender Sehwag dropping the left-hander on 18 and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni missing a sharp stumping opportunity nine runs later.

His unfulfilled 59 epitomised the top-order's collective inability to build good starts into big scores, which skipper Clarke insisted they do in the build-up to the first of four Tests.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade's stay was brief for his dozen, as another straightforward lbw decision brought Ashwin his fifth victim - and raised further questions about Australia's reluctance to get forward to the testing turn.

At 153 for five, the tourists were in danger of an altogether weak first-innings total. A captain's knock was in demand, as well as a thorough effort from Henriques. The duo gradually obliged, to the tune of a rearguard 151-run alliance for the sixth wicket.

Aided by insufficient return spells from Ishant and Kumar - and an admittedly average performance from the veteran Harbhajan Singh in his 100th Test - Clarke and Henriques complemented each other superbly.

The mentor nurtured the rookie, and the rookie in turn repaid the faith. Ashwin, who bowled almost a third of the day's 95 overs, went without further reward for sustained periods. Fellow spinner Ravindra Jadeja, too, was thwarted.

Clarke surpassed 7,000 Test runs in the process, the 10th Australain to achieve the feat, and the right-handed Henriques thoroughly justified his selection ahead of fellow all-rounder Glenn Maxwell.

A century was on the cards for the 26-year-old, but a rare lapse in concentration late in the day brought his downfall for 68. In retrospect, Henriques will admonish himself for a tired sweep shot, which capped figures of six for 88 for Ashwin.

The second new ball brought another breakthrough, as aspirant all-rounder Mitchell Starc was bowled cheaply. Jadeja pushed through a quicker delivery, which the left-hander was late on.

Tail-ender Peter Siddle, eager to guide his skipper to three figures, dug in for a dogged one not out from 18 deliveries. Clarke, meanwhile, took his cue from the penultimate delivery of the day, slapping it through mid-off for four. With the boundary came the 23rd century of his career - and sixth against India.

Saturday, surely, will bring the talented right-hander's finest attempt at a fifth double-century in 14 months. He will be reminded, though, that he should have been given out on 39. Indeed, Friday's 65th over saw Clarke caught at short-leg, but umpire Kumar Dharamasena was oblivious to the involvement of bat. India, not for the first time and probably not the last, were left to rethink their vehement stance against the Decision Review System.

While 316 for seven won't be considered a great Test match score on paper, the trying conditions - and impending difficulties awaiting the host batsmen - have arguably afforded the Australians nominal edge ahead of the weekend.