Smith marathon leads Australia to 451

Smith marathon leads Australia to 451
Smith finished unbeaten on 178 - his fourth-best score in Test cricket. © BCCI

Steve Smith’s marathon knock of 178* was the key factor around which Australia managed to post a total of 451 in the first innings. India could have been looking at a far higher total if it was not for Ravindra Jadeja’s 8th five-wicket haul in Tests.

In both sessions, the tug of war continued with Australia pulling the game towards them first through Glenn Maxwell’s maiden Test ton, and later useful contributions from Matthew Wade (37) and Steven O’Keefe (25). But Jadeja’s timely breakthroughs, including two in an over, ensured that Smith never got a settled partner for long periods despite his own fluency.

The day began with India still missing their regular skipper Virat Kohli who stayed off the field after suffering a shoulder injury on Day 1. Starting off on a confident note, it didn’t take long for Maxwell to get the 18 runs he needed to register the maiden ton. There wasn’t much assistance for the bowlers from the pitch and with the partnership going strong, Australia looked well set to get a massive total.

However, against the run of play, Jadeja had Maxwell nicking behind after a fine 104. The wicket, however, did little to curb Australia’s momentum. Wade remained busy with good use of the feet against the spinners and hard sweeps to quickly take Australia close to 400, along with a resolute Smith who got to 150 himself. While the partnership was threatening to make it a forgettable session for India, it was Jadeja once again who provided a double break to pull India back.

Wade was out caught behind while comeback man Pat Cummins was beaten comprehensively to be bowled for a duck. The double-strike just before the lunch break allowed India to bounce back. But Australia continued to fight on through O’Keefe and Smith in the next session. The duo added 51 for the eighth wicket before Umesh Yadav had O’Keefe pulling down to fine leg.

With Smith still going strong, Australia would have fancied a total closer to 500 if the tail was able to wag. But Jadeja once again made quick work of the last two wickets, with Nathan Lyon being caught at silly point and Josh Hazlewood being smartly run out. Smith’s marathon knock couldn’t be breached though, and he had ensured that Australia had a first innings total that would challenge India thoroughly.

India’s openers managed to remain unbeaten until the Tea break in the eight overs that were to follow.

Brief Scores

Australia 451 all out (Steve Smith 178*, Glenn Maxwell 104; R Jadeja 5-124)

India 20/0 (KL Rahul 18*, Murali Vijay 2*)