Steve Smith continued to be India’s nemesis by scoring a superb century as Australia recovered from early setbacks to reach a comfortable 299 for 4 on the first day of the third cricket Test in Ranchi.
In the eye of a storm for his ‘DRS Brain Fade’ during the second Test, Smith (117 batting) showed steely resolve en route his 19th Test hundred. None among the Indian bowling quartet could trouble him during the 244 balls that he faced.
Comeback-man Glenn Maxwell (82 batting) also played his role to perfection with a solid effort, adding 159 runs in 47.4 overs for the fifth wicket.
Maxwell’s proficiency against spin also helped Smith to play his own game. Incidentally, this was Maxwell’s first 50 plus score in Test cricket.
If it wasn’t enough that bowlers had a hard day, Indian captain Virat Kohli suffered a shoulder injury while fielding and was out of action for more than one session. In Kohli’s absence, stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane’s leadership lacked imagination.
Australia would certainly be looking at a total in excess of 500 with an aim to bat India out of the match during the first innings itself. This was after Australia were precariously placed at 140 for 4 with Umesh Yadav (2/63 in 19 overs) providing a fantastic exhibition of reverse swing bowling.
The day belonged to Smith, who has now scored six Test hundreds against India in the last seven appearances. The pitch was low and slow to begin with and there wasn’t much turn on offer for the Indian spin twins.
With no help from the track, Ravichandran Ashwin (1/78 in 23 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/80 in 30 overs) had nothing special in their armoury to trouble the Australian skipper, who hit 13 boundaries in his innings.
For the record, the Australian captain also completed his 5000 runs in Test cricket. Smith came in at a time when Umesh was bowling quite well. He saw off that spell and then played all the Indian bowlers with ease.
He didn’t show any hurried approach yet got the runs at a fair pace. With Maxwell hitting his share of sixes — two off Jadeja apart from five fours –, Smith found it easier to disturb Jadeja’s length. With no rough created on either side of the wicket, Jadeja’s deliveries lacked any bite whatsoever. Ashwin got a few past the bat but the slowness of the wicket helped the batsmen adjust their footwork.