RANCHI: Captain Steve Smith led from the front scoring an unbeaten 117 as Australia ended Day 1 of the third Test against India for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in a commanding position of 299/4 at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi on Thursday.
Despite getting starts, the Aussie top-order sans Smith failed to get going leaving the captain to do the hardwork. At 140/4, with India sniffing a chance, especially with Glenn Maxwell in the middle, Smith played a grinding innings. Watchful in the post-lunch session, he had ensured that India didn't make any further inroads and even shielded Maxwell against off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
But post tea, Smith was in his usual elements. Patient on a surface that might see a first innings total of 350 look good, he crafted his 19th Test century to perfection. Except for the lone mis-hit against Ravindra Jadeja, that fell short of the mid-on fielder, Smith was happy to play the spinners of the backfoot. Though he ventured out on occasions when the ball was tossed, he curbed his instincts to go for big hits and was instead content in playing shots across the ground.
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With Maxwell, also providing perfect company at the other end, Smith became only the third visiting captain behind Clive Lloyd and Alastair Cook to score two centuries in a Test series in India. The previous two went on to either draw the series or win it and Smith's century might well help Australia take the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back home.
Maxwell, who came into the eleven in place of injured Mitchell Marsh, was not far behind his captain. The all-rounder, remained unbeaten on 82 off 147 balls, the maximum he has faced in an international fixture. Coming into the Test with a batting average of 13.33, Maxwell was a revelation as he didn't bring his hard-hitting game into play. He was watchful and never looked in any kind of trouble although he was extra-careful against Jadeja. The two have so far added 159 runs for the unbroken fifth wicket.
For India, Umesh Yadav was the pick of the bowlers as he picked 2/63 and consistently troubled the Aussies with reverse-swing.
Australia, who are playing their 800th Test, made two changes to the side, bringing in Maxwell and Pat Cummins for the injured duo of Mitchell Starc and Marsh. For India, the fit-again Murali Vijay, replaced Abhinav Mukund at the top.