Smith puts Aussies in front

Skipper slams unbeaten century as visitors reach 299/4 on opening day

Smith puts Aussies in front

On a rare occasion in this series, the bat held the sway over the ball throughout the day. And that summed up the nature of the pitch.

Contrary to expectations, the opening day surface for the third Test here at the JSC Stadium had few demons in store and Australia, after winning an all-important toss and inserting themselves, made the most of the conditions to put up the best batting show yet of the series on Thursday.

Skipper Steve Smith (117 batting), whose love for the Indian bowling is matched only by Australians’ obsession to run down Virat Kohli, was once again at the forefront of tourists’ fine batting performance even as Glenn Maxwell (87 batting) justified his inclusion in the final 11 with a career best knock. At close on day one, Australia had reached 299 for four in 90 overs on a day when India missed an injured Kohli for almost two sessions. The Indian skipper got injured after landing hard on his right shoulder while making a tumbling save in the 40th over of Australia’s innings.

Smith continued to torment the Indian attack with a chanceless century (his sixth hundred in the last seven Tests against India) while Maxwell, playing his first Test since November 2014, displayed an uncharacteristic patience to bring up his first half-century of his career. Together, the two right-handers raised an 159-run unbroken stand for the fifth wicket that put Australia firmly on the saddle.

Barring the odd ball that kept a little low, the bounce remained largely true through the day, making batting an easier proposition compared to previous instances in this series. Matt Renshaw (44 off 69 balls) and David Warner provided Australia the right push at the top of the innings, raising an even 50-run partnership. While the pitch played few tricks, Indian pacers did little to minimise the ineffective nature of the track. Both Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, who bowled impressively in Bengaluru, often strayed down the leg to give away some easy boundaries. Renshaw in fact scored more than half of his runs playing off his pads to onside.

Both the southpaws, however, were guilty of throwing their wickets away to some innocuous balls. Warner played a full toss straight back to Ravindra Jadeja while a little later, Renshaw chased an Umesh delivery to offer Kohli a simple catch at first slip. With two lucky breaks, India pressed home the advantage when Shaun Marsh fell to the guile of Ashwin. In an attempt to work away a well tossed-up off-spinner, Shaun bat-padded the ball and Pujara dived to his left to take a sharp catch at short-leg. Though the original decision was not out, India successfully reviewed the verdict to get Ian Gould’s verdict reversed. That united the two main protagonists of the Review-gate in the middle – Smith and Peter Handscomb.

The two batted with little discomfort to revive the innings that looked under pressure for a brief while. The duo added 51 runs for the fourth wicket before Handscomb was done in by full delivery that struck him on his front toe and didn’t even bother to review the lbw decision. That was the lone success India managed in the second session as Australia neutralised India’s spin threat by showing positive intent on a good batting square. 

Neither Ashwin nor Jadeja were able to build pressure on Smith and Maxwell who saw off the final session without much trouble while adding 105 runs to the total. While Smith was the glue that held Australia’s innings together, Maxwell was impressive in his intent and application. Belying his image as a maverick batsman, the Victorian bided his time before he essayed his first big shot, a lofted four off Jadeja, off the 57th ball he faced. Once he got his eye in, the right-hander pulled off a flurry of boundaries to push the score board. He was also lucky that India didn’t review a pad-bat catch on 67 off Jadeja. The replays showed he was out.

India will have to make early inroads on Friday morning or else Smith and Maxwell may just take the game away from them.
DH News Service

score board
AUSTRALIA (I Innings):
Renshaw c Kohli b Umesh    44
(89m, 69b, 7x4)
Warner c & b Jadeja    19
(45m, 26b, 2x4)
Smith (batting)    117
(320m, 244b, 13x4)
S Marsh c Pujara b Ashwin    2
(13m, 8b)
Handscomb lbw Umesh    19
(67m, 47b, 2x4)
Maxwell (batting)    82 
(194m, 147b, 5x4, 2x6)
Extras (B-4, LB-11, NB-1)    16
Total (for 4 wkts, 90 overs)    299
Fall of wickets: 1-50 (Warner), 2-80 (Renshaw), 3-89 (Shaun), 4-140 (Handscomb).  
Bowling: Ishant 15-2-46-0 (nb-1), Umesh 19-3-63-2, Ashwin 23-2-78-1, Jadeja 30-3-80-1, Vijay 3-0-17-0.

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