Australia 1, India 1.
The tourists run through their opponents in Pune. They dominate on each day.
Ashwin responds with a fifer at Bengalaru, winning the Indians the game in a flurry of wickets in the final inning.
Spats between the captains. Accusations and rebuttals exchanged at 40 paces.
Starc injured. Mitch Marsh, gone. The pitch’s condition debated at length.
Third Test at Ranchi.
Cricket streaming on a site that isn’t kosher, a page full of both complex and irritating maths equations done and dusted. It’s odd. Everything going alright.
Smith’s on 99, unbeaten after hours spent on a treacherous deck with mullygrubbers threatening his castle.
Straight drive, and it’s 103.
Somehow Glenn Maxwell is beside him as Smith salutes the pockets of Australian supporters amongst the excitable hometown barrackers.
This makes no sense.
For inexplicably Maxwell, an typically ostentatious and extravagant batsman, has been sensible. Calm. Measured.
Sure, he misses a reverse sweep that clatters into a pad, but it’s an out-of-character swipe compared to his calculated and mature innings today.
India look stuffed. Firebrand leader Kohli has a bung shoulder, and it may be so for the remaining of the team judging by their body language.
Heads down, arms held low and loose. There’s little, if any, support in the field. The bowling has been defensive, cautious. Full and straight and conceding as little punishment as possible.
Without their captain they look lost, subdued. It’s been an easy day for Smith, while Maxwell has chiselled his way to his maiden half-century.
The Australians have by no means dominated the day. They’ve survived, settled, and capitalised.
Renshaw played an unusually fluid 44, but excluding Smith and Maxwell, no other Australian batsman thrived in the conditions. Warner and Handscomb’s dismissals were due to first a poor stroke and secondly a magnificent curling yorker from Yadav.
Shaun Marsh’s barren run with the willow continued, but that was it. 150+ from the all-rounder and his captain and all India’s bite was nullified. The pitch’s quality looks a worry for the home side as well – Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav extracting little venom from the dead and dusty square, Ashwin and Jadeja both neither turning the ball off the square. Some seam, but that really is about it.
Slow, low. And on days three onwards, the cracks will come out and chasing any respectable total won’t be fun, especially with a pair of spinners with 28 wickets between them and a fresh speedster in Pat Cummins charging in.
Last over of the day, and Glenn Maxwell faces out each delivery with absolute, complete application. He chops one through off an edge, misses another but rehearses each stroke.
Maxwell at number six didn’t appeal at the start of this tour. A slogger and a handy offie. That is all.
Today he comes out and compiles a measured 82. A Test match 82, defending stoically, attacking in spurts, surviving, surviving.
And Smith –
The man averages over sixty and has made both hundreds on the tour by any team. Unbeaten. 117, not out, after spending 244 balls at the crease and indeed an hour in the nineties.
A captain’s innings if ever there was one.
299-4 at the close of play. Australia well on top.
India, I thought, would show all why they’re the best team in the world but I, and it seems most avid Australian cricketing fans, am all too happy to be proven wrong.
S.P.D. Smith 117*, G.J. Maxwell 82* M.T. Renshaw 44.
U.T. Yadav 2-63.