Smith half-century steadies Australia in middle session

Dinner Australia 3 for 182 (Renshaw 71, Smith 54*) v Pakistan
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Steven Smith struck a fluent fifty to lead Australia’s charge in the middle session © Getty Images

Australia’s middle order have the chance to capitalise on a platform set for them by the young opener Matt Renshaw on the first evening of the Gabba day-night Test match in Brisbane.

Renshaw’s discipline in early stands with David Warner and the captain Steven Smith blunted the new ball in the hands of Pakistan’s pace attack and also compelled Yasir Shah to bowl a high volume of overs early in the match.

While Wahab Riaz was able to find Renshaw’s outside edge before he could go on to three figures, Smith and Pete Handscomb then fought their way through to the dinner interval with hope for more runs on resumption. Smith was dropped by Sarfraz Ahmed from the part-time leg breaks of Azhar Ali on the stroke of dinner.

Mohammad Amir and Yasir had struck in the last half-hour of the first session to open up opportunities for Pakistan after Australia’s openers had safely negotiated the early passages. David Warner fell victim to a marginal LBW decision by the umpire Ian Gould to end an opening stand of 70 and hand Amir his first wicket, before Usman Khawaja flicked Yasir Shah directly to Misbah-ul-Haq in the very next over.

These wickets left the match delicately poised and Smith accompanying Renshaw at the crease. Renshaw played an exemplary innings, showing his usual sound judgment around the off stump but also showing an ability to hit with power through midwicket and down the ground.

The hosts retained Nathan Lyon despite widespread speculation over his spot on match eve, meaning Chadd Sayers remained 12th man, as he was in the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide. The team was unchanged from that match, allowing the debutants Renshaw, Pete Handscomb and Nic Maddinson to all hang onto their spots.

There was some swing for Amir and Rahat Ali in the early overs, but Renshaw and Warner did very well to cover any movement and also punish any errors in line or length – in Warner’s case he started by punching Rahat to the cover fence first ball. Wahab Riaz’s greater pace was unable to make much of an impression, and Misbah was left to call on Yasir as early as the 11th over of the innings.

Bounce was plentiful even if the Gabba pitch will likely quicken up in pace on day two, but Yasir’s early overs were characterised by a somewhat odd tactic – attacking the leg stumps of Renshaw and Warner with a 6-3 leg side field. For the most part the batsmen took advantage of this, the only semblance of a chance coming when Yasir strayed wide of the off stump and Warner edged fractionally short of slip.

However Amir was brought back in the lead-up to the break and was able to pin Warner as he shuffled across the stumps to try to work the ball to the leg side. Gould’s finger was raised and Warner did not review – ball-tracking showed the ball would have clipped the outside of the leg stump.

Khawaja got started with one neat leg glance, but he was soon to be on his way when he lifted a Yasir delivery on the pads directly into the midriff of Misbah. Renshaw finished the session with a boundary from Azhar, before finding more gaps when play resumed – leaping out once to flay Yasir over cover.

Smith also played admirably straight, refusing to be tempted into a surfeit of deliveries angled across him by the Pakistani left-armers, and the pair were looking increasingly secure until Wahab found a modicum of away movement to coax an edge from Renshaw’s bat.

Coming in at No. 5, Handscomb again demonstrated his idiosyncratic method, staying deep in his crease to the pacemen while also trying to dance down the wicket to Yasir. There were a few nervy moments for him before the break, but Smith’s passing of 50 gave the hosts some cause for optimism as the match crept into the floodlit night.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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