Steve Smith’s century and Glenn Maxwell’s breakthrough performance pushed Australia to 4-299 at stumps on day one of the third Test against India.
Smith and Maxwell dominated the hosts on Thursday, sharing an unbeaten 159-run stand in Ranchi.
It is already Australia’s highest fifth-wicket Test partnership in India and comfortably the highest stand in the ongoing four-Test series.
Smith’s class, Maxwell’s composure, India’s misfields and Virat Kohli’s shoulder injury have handed Australia the perfect platform to push for a victory that will ensure they retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Smith won arguably the most important toss of his career then batted for 320 minutes with the same determination he has showed throughout the series, finishing 117 not out.
Kohli will have scans on Thursday afternoon, having injured himself diving to stop a boundary. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane failed to inspire teammates or come up with fields that made Smith or Maxwell sweat.
“It’s two different captains. Kohli and Rahane probably do things a bit differently, but I didn’t really notice things that were different,” Matt Renshaw said.
Renshaw noted even before Kohli left the field, India were a lot less chirpy compared to the preceding Test. Kohli and Smith had a pre-match meeting with match referee Richie Richardson, who encouraged them to ensure there weren’t as many blow-ups and send-offs as what transpired in Bangalore.
“They still came out pretty hard but I think there just probably weren’t as many words out there today,” the 20-year-old opener said.
“But they still played pretty hard cricket and made it tough for us.”
Widely expected to be the worst pitch of the three produced in the series so far, Smith made it look remarkably flat but would have worried about running out of partners when the visitors slipped to 4-140.
Maxwell, playing the fourth Test of his career and first since 2014, steadied with his longest ever international innings in any format.
The allrounder finished 82 not out after facing 147 deliveries. He waited some 56 balls before striking a boundary.
It was a different kind of potency to what Maxwell has demonstrated in ODI and Twenty20 cricket, but exactly what Australia needed. Maxwell’s dig was notably the highest score by an Australian No.6 since Smith’s century against South Africa in 2014.
“He’s a class player and he showed that he could do it in Test cricket,” Renshaw said.
“You hear about this in the media a lot, that he’s a bit of a cowboy.
“But he just played some good cricket shots today.”
The body language of Rahane, who threw the ball to part-timer Murali Vijay late and would have dismissed Maxwell for 74 if he opted for a review, suggested he’d almost ran out of ideas to dismiss the two well-set batsmen.
“Tomorrow’s first session is going to be one of the most crucial in this match,” Renshaw said.
“If we can win that session we go a long way to winning the Test.”