Rock-solid Smith leads Australia to 450

Innings Australia 450 (Smith 178*, Maxwell 104, Jadeja 5-124) v India
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Glenn Maxwell hugs Steven Smith after reaching his maiden Test hundred © Associated Press

Steven Smith’s latest epic, Glenn Maxwell’s first Test hundred, and some spiky help from the lower order lifted Australia to 451 against India on the second afternoon in Ranchi. The tourists had at times looked capable of more but were restricted by a persevering Ravindra Jadeja.

As Virat Kohli remained confined indoors due to a shoulder strain, Australia pushed on beyond the day’s midpoint with a sensible mixture of attack and defence on a pitch that remained friendly to batsmen with only the occasional moment of misbehaviour. Kohli will be able to bat in his preferred position because his injury was judged to be as the result of an external impact.

While Smith sailed on past 150, with only one instant of uncertainty when he edged Ishant Sharma fractionally short of the wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, 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 for the first time in three years.

It was just reward for a highly mature and intelligent performance, one that vindicated the selectors’ decision to recall Maxwell in place of the injured Mitchell Marsh, and 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-match performer.

Jadeja’s wickets, however, were proof that some assistance was available for the spinners, with Maxwell and Pat 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, Matthew 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, and endured for an hour after it with stern defence and the odd angry shot. Eventually he fell prey to the hook shot, and Nathan Lyon did not last long against Jadeja’s bounce. Josh Hazlewood was run out as Smith tried to pinch the strike one last time.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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