Travis Head hit a stubborn half-century to keep Australia in the hunt Friday after their top order slumped under sustained pressure from India's bowlers, leaving the first Test in Adelaide finely poised.
Batting on his home ground, Head kept his cool in the humid conditions to be 61 not out at stumps on day two, with Mitchell Starc unbeaten on eight.
His efforts helped steer Australia to 191-7 in reply to India's 250.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowled beautifully to take three wickets, while Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah grabbed two each.
It was Head's second 50 in his third Test, with the Adelaide-born 24-year-old playing the sort of gutsy innings that his more experienced teammates couldn't match.
All of Australia's top four were back without passing 30, with Aaron Finch (0) and Shaun Marsh (2) notable failures.
It once again reinforced how much Australia are missing Steve Smith and David Warner, who remain banned over their part in the South Africa ball-tampering affair.
SCORES IN BRIEF
INDIA: First innings 250 (Pujara 123, Sharma 37; Hazlewood 3-52, Cummins 2-49, Starc 2-63, Lyon 2-83)
AUSTRALIA: First innings 191 for 7 (Head 61 not out, Handscomb 34; Ashwin 3-50, Sharma 2-31, Bumrah 2-34)