Third Test: Smith, Maxwell lead Australian charge
Ranchi: Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell shone with the bat as Australia posted 299/4 in their first innings on the opening day of their third cricket Test against India at the JSCA International Stadium here on Thursday.
At stumps, Smith was unbeaten on 117 while Maxwell was batting on 82.
Smith hit 13 boundaries during his 244-ball stay in the middle while Maxwell slammed five boundaries and two sixes over the 147 deliveries he has faced.
The duo have added 159 runs between them to lead Australia to a strong position.
Smith was also involved in a 51-run stand with Peter Handscomb that helped to bring the Australian innings back on track after the hosts had claimed three top order wickets in the first session to force the initial advantage.
This is Smith’s sixth century against India and his second in this series. The Australian skipper also notched up his 5000th Test run along the way. He is the third fastest to the landmark in the history of the game, having taken 53 Test matches to achieve the feat.
For India, fast bowler Umesh Yadav returned figures of 2/63 while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up a wicket each for India.
Smith and Maxwell batted with a mixture of caution and aggression to keep the Indian bowlers at bay.
Maxwell — known for his attacking style of batting in the limited-overs formats — played cautiously, hitting only two boundaries in the 47 deliveries he faced before tea.
He was slightly more forthcoming in the final session, and brought up his half-century in style, smashing a Jadeja delivery over mid-wicket for a six.
Smith was going steady at the other end, bringing up his century with a boundary to the long-on fence off a Murali Vijay delivery.
Earlier, electing to bat on winning the toss, Australia were off to a rocky start, losing three wickets in the first session.
The visitors scored at a brisk rate in the initial overs with openers Matt Renshaw and David Warner maintaining a rate of around four runs an over.
With both Umesh and Ishant persisting with a leg stump line, the Australian openers were able to find the gap at regular intervals. The Indian pacers produced appreciable speed and swing but did not get much help from the pitch which was a bit low and slow.
But the introduction of spinners Jadeja and Ashwin into the attack helped to turn the tide for the hosts.
Jadeja struck the first blow when Warner lobbed a full toss back to the bowler.
That slowed down the scoring rate with Renshaw and Smith managing to score only 30 runs in around 13 overs before the former was dismissed by Umesh.
Renshaw tried to play a delivery which was just outside the off stump only to see the ball nick the outside edge on its way into the palms of Indian captain Virat Kohli in the slips.
Pujara then pulled off an excellent diving catch off Ashwin’s bowling to send back Shaun Marsh a short while later. The umpire had originally ruled Marsh not out but the Indians decided to call for the review which overturned the decision.
Peter Handscomb then joined Smith in the middle and the duo proceeded to try and bring the visitors back on track with a 51-run partnership.
The hosts suffered a scare when skipper Virat Kohli appeared to injure his shoulder while trying to save a boundary.
Handscomb had hit a Jadeja delivery wide of mid-on prompting Kohli to give chase. The Indian skipper dived in an effort to prevent the ball from crossing the boundary line and ended up hurting himself.
The incident forced Kohli to walk off the field to seek medical attention with Ajinkya Rahane acting as stand-in captain.
Umesh trapped Handscomb leg before with an in-swinging yorker a short while after the lunch break to give India another breakthrough.
That was however, the last time Indian players and the home crowd would celebrate on the day as Smith and Maxwell joined forces to engineer a superb turnaround for the visitors.