A magnificent century from Steven Smith, and his record partnership with Glenn Maxwell were the highlights of the opening day’s play of the third Test between Australia and India. The visitors ended the first day at 299/4 – this after their captain called correctly at the toss and decided to bat first.
Despite all the pre-match apprehensions, it became evident soon after the match began that there were not too many demons in the pitch – at least not in the initial stages.
Matt Renshaw began with a flurry of boundaries, while David Warner took his time to get going. The opening pair added 50 before the two left-handers were separated.
Warner was the first to depart when he hit a full toss straight back at Ravindra Jadeja, who was alert to the possibility of a return catch and gleefully accepted the opportunity.
In walked Steven Smith to bat at number three, and the little Australian wasted little time in making his presence felt. He opened his account with a boundary – tucking a leg stump delivery from Ravindra Jadeja to the fine-leg fence. On a dry surface and on a pitch which provided a bit of assistance to the bowlers, Smith batted like he had grown up playing on such tracks. His batting might not be technically correct or aesthetically pleasing, but it was effective for sure.
Midway through the second session, Smith brought up his half-century. A short while later, closer to the tea break, he ticked off an important personal milestone. The 27-year-old became the youngest Australian cricketer to reach 5,000 Test runs. In context of Test cricket history, Smith was the fifth-youngest to get to the milestone.
In terms of innings needed to get to the milestone, Smith ranks third among the 20 Australian batsmen who have reached the 5,000-run mark. Only Sir Donald Bradman and Matthew Hayden had needed fewer innings than Smith to get to 5000 runs.
Trivia: Against Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin – the top two bowlers in the ICC Test rankings, Steven Smith had a control degree of 93.2 percent on day one of the Ranchi Test. The corresponding number for other batsmen was 86 percent.
Though Australia slipped to 140/4 midway through the second session, Smith continued to accumulate the runs – and in the company of the returning Glenn Maxwell, helped Australia consolidate the innings.
By the end of the day’s play, the pair had stitched together Australia’s best fifth wicket partnership in Test matches in India – and the highest partnership of the series so far – and put their team in a commanding position.
Despite playing his first Test for Australia since 2014, Maxwell began confidently. When Maxwell walked out to bat, Smith had just reached his half-century. In such circumstances, one would generally expect the well-set batsman to dominate proceedings.
Not in this case, Maxwell dominated the partnership. When the day’s play ended, Maxwell remained unbeaten on 82, made from 147 balls. Smith’s contribution to the fifth wicket association stood at 67 runs off 140 balls.
With a little less than 30 minutes was remaining in the day’s play, Smith ticked off another important milestone – he reached the three-figure mark yet again!
It appears India is Steven Smith’s favourite opponent, for he has scored more centuries in Test matches against India than against any other opponent. Smith’s hundred in Ranchi was the 19th of his young Test career, his sixth against India and his second of this ongoing series.
Trivia: Clive Lloyd, Alastair Cook and Steve Smith are the only visiting captains to score two hundreds in a Test series in India.
The Australian captain walked back to the dressing room unbeaten on 117 and will look to make it a big knock when he resumes his innings on day two. Glenn Maxwell, whose aggregate of runs in Test matches before this Test stood at 80 runs, remained unbeaten on 82. He too will be eyeing his first three-figure score in Test cricket.
For India, Umesh Yadav was the most successful bowler on the day. The speedster from Vidarbha was impressive, especially when the ball started to reverse. He delivered two beautiful full length deliveries to send back Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb.
Umesh has improved leaps and bounds – particularly in this home season. The Indian camp will hope Umesh can make early inroads into the Australian batting line-up on day two. Play begins at 09 30 hours IST on Friday, and you can follow all the updates from the match on our live blog.