Lunch Australia 401 for 7 (Smith 153*, O’Keefe 1) v India
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Glenn Maxwell hugs Steven Smith after reaching his maiden Test hundred © Associated Press
Steven Smith’s unfolding epic and Glenn Maxwell’s first Test hundred were offset by three wickets for Ravindra Jadeja on the second morning in Ranchi. Australia seemed set for a mighty total before Matthew Wade and Pat Cummins fell within minutes of lunch to revive India’s hopes of keeping in touch.
As Virat Kohli remained confined to the hosts’ viewing area and treatment table due to a shoulder strain, Australia pushed on for most of the session with a sensible mixture of attack and defence on a pitch that remained friendly to batsmen with only the occasional moment of misbehaviour.
Smith sailed past 150 with only one instant of uncertainty, when he edged Ishant Sharma fractionally short of the wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. But the emotional high point of the morning arrived when Maxwell sliced a boundary to third man to pass three figures on his return to the Test team after three years.
It was reward for a mature and intelligent performance, one that vindicated the selectors’ decision to recall Maxwell in place of the injured Mitchell Marsh. It also opened up an opportunity for the Victoria batsman to begin a new phase of his career as not only a limited-overs entertainer but also a Test performer.
Jadeja’s wickets, however, were proof that some assistance was available for the spinners, with Maxwell and Cummins both defeated by deliveries that turned and lifted after being bowled at considerable pace by the left-armer. Australia’s chances of pressing home their advantage will depend on how the pitch continues to deteriorate.
The second new ball was still shiny when Smith and Maxwell resumed, and plenty of early runs accrued from any errors of line or length from Ishant and Umesh Yadav. Maxwell was quickly to 99 then briefly becalmed. One Jadeja delivery kicked and beat the bat in a forerunner of the ball that was to dismiss him five runs later.
Maxwell’s celebration was unrestrained, a tight embrace with Smith underlining the hundred’s importance to him and also perhaps the example from whom he had gained an appreciation for the finer arts of Test batting: Smith had himself once been a cricketer many doubted would mature into a five-day performer.
When Jadeja claimed Maxwell’s edge, Wade arrived in a busy mood and wasted little time building a 50-run stand with Smith. Just when it seemed captain and wicketkeeper would get through to the interval, Jadeja skidded a straight ball through to claim Wade’s outside edge, well taken behind the stumps by Saha.
Cummins could last only two balls before his stumps were clattered by sharp spin, but Steve O’Keefe was able to get to the break in Smith’s company.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo