Two hundreds were scored on the first day of the Sydney Test. From start to finish, the day was full of imperious and majestic strokeplay, intelligent restraint and bludgeoning power.
Renshaw and Warner played incredibly contrasting knocks, each into the record books for their own reason. Warner was the first Australian to score 100 in the first session of a Test since Don Bradman started his knock of 334. And Renshaw became the youngest Australian centurion since Phillip Hughes.
Warner’s knock was by far the more flamboyant and destructive innings. With the intent and matching shots that only a few in world cricket can provide, Warner’s knock set the tone for a Pakistan’s less than inspired bowling innings.
In the first hour of play, Warner hit the ball to all parts, and put momentum firmly with the Australians.
At lunch on the first day, Warner was responsible for driving Australia to a commanding position. At the end of the first day however, Renshaw’s knock had far more to do with Australia’s position than Warner’s.
I’m not taking anything away from Warner’s innings, but to put it simply, Renshaw’s day was a perfect example of Test batting. Taking the shine off the ball, protecting the middle order, and being there to cash in at the end of the day.
For all of the ferocity of Warner’s innings, for mine, Renshaw’s is the kind you build a Test Match around.
When Warner, Khawaja and Smith were all dismissed, the score was at 3-244 and all of Australia’s key batsmen were gone. How simple it would have been for the Australian middle order and tail to collapse and be all out for under 350, as they’ve done several times in the last few years.
With Peter Handscomb and Renshaw’s partnership however, Australia moved to stumps at 3-365. Not only did they prevent Pakistan from gaining any momentum, they kept their bowlers toiling in the field without any respite, and as the last session progressed, Renshaw upped the pressure on the Pakistani bowling.
While he has been labelled dour by some parts of the media and some fans, Renshaw has shown exactly the kind of grit that will never make you the guy kids want to emulate, but that selectors will know that you can build a team around.
Renshaw is primed to go and get a bigger score tomorrow. With a night’s rest, and against a tired Pakistani attack, he has the world at his feet, and he deserves to play with the freedom that that provides. But regardless of what Renshaw ends up with in the first innings, he has proven a template for openers that has been around for years is still as valid as it has ever been.
Take the shine off the ball, protect the middle order, and score when the bowlers are tired.
I hope that Renshaw cashes in big tomorrow, but for mine, he’s already played the innings of the match regardless of whether he adds another run or not.