ICC Live

CT 2017 - Buy Tickets - 300x250


What are your thoughts on this article?

Defiant Smith holds up India

Skipper’s unbeaten 65 steers Australia to 221 for 4 in response to visitors’ 408

Defiant Smith holds up India - Cricket News
Steve Smith scores his first half-century as captain.
The cricket was so good, the balance between bat and ball so perfect, that even the famous Brisbane storms stayed away from the Gabba. This was Test cricket at its gripping best, two teams matching each other move for move, plucky parry meeting cheeky thrust, clever ruse being foiled by careful response.
India pushed on to 408, and plugged away efficiently enough under cloudy skies to reduce Australia to 121 for 3 before Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh counter-attacked fearlessly to reach 221 for 4 when bad light and an approaching weather front called a premature close with nine overs still to be bowled.
There’s something about Australia’s newest captain, the 25-year-old spiky blond twinkle-toed one-time legspinner turned batsman that makes him utterly popular. There’s an air of boyish insouciance to him that leaves you believing he could just as likely be larking around on a beach as fighting hard to put the runs on the board at the highest level of the game.
When Smith walked out to bat in his first hit as Test captain, Australia was in the middle of a wobble. David Warner, fresh from twin hundreds in Adelaide, closed the face of his bat early on Umesh Yadav, the looping catch easily accepted by R Ashwin backpedaling from slip. Shane Watson, never quite comfortable, was lured into a hard-handed flick by Ashwin, and Shikhr Dhawan dived low to take a smart catch at mid on.
At 98 for 2, with the bowlers steaming in, Australia’s batsmen needed to dig deep. At one end, India had genuine pace, Varun Aaron and Umesh running in with good rhythm, generating enough pace and carry to push batsmen onto the back foot. At the other was Ashwin. For the best part of the last year, India’s think tank has been besotted with the idea of Ravindra Jadeja being the lone spinner, even if his role was restrictive rather than wicket-taking.
Ashwin got two chances in Tests in England, but with no runs on the board, all he could do was work on regaining the spring in his step, the hard rip on the off break and the consistency of landing the ball exactly where he wanted. All those were on peak display as he bowled with skill and intelligence to keep the batsmen guessing. Close-in fielders were constantly in the game, and even when a batsman managed to play a forcing short, the ball found the fielder in the ring.


As Ashwin built pressure, Chris Rogers looked for scoring options at the other end, and faltered. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who returned to the team after an extended spell of rest that allowed an injured wrist to recover, shrugged off the ennui that has marked much of his captaincy in Tests. This was not the captain who set ultra-defensive fielders, or the wicketkeeper who could not skip to his left or right to get to the ball when the bowler erred. This was a captain who set an 8-1 offside field purely to attack, constantly told his bowlers what he expected of them.
Just ahead of the tea break, Umesh attacked from around the stumps, angling the ball into the left-handed Rogers. Cramped for room, Rogers tried to work the ball away, and was strangled down the legside, gloving the ball to the ’keeper.
Smith, who had begun quietly but firmly, began to assert himself as Shaun Marsh bedded down. When Ashwin tossed the ball up, Smith’s eyes lit up, twinkling like fireflies in the twilight as he came down the pitch to cart the ball into the stands or drive muscularly through cover.
Shaun was occasionally at sea against Ashwin, the ball spinning sharply across the face of the bat repeatedly. Against the quick bowlers, however, there was no such indecisiveness from Shaun, who went right back in his crease, waited on the ball and played with the straightest of bats. It was only when the runs were dried up that Shaun began to get restless, and was hurried into a pull shot by Aaron. The swirler went right up in the air, but Ajinkya Rahane, who called for the catch in the short fine-leg region, got into a bad position and let his nerves get the better of him, grassing the chance.
The let-off, on 32, would not prove costly as Umesh, replacing Aaron, got one to slant across Shaun, the thick edge being expertly taken by Ashwin, who timed his leap perfectly and was at full stretch in the slip cordon when the ball nestled into his hands.
Smith had worked his way to 65, taking his series tally to 279 runs without once being dismissed. With the other Marsh, the hamstrung Mitchell for company, and Brad Haddin and the tail to follow, Smith will know that the Australian lower order will have to do at least as well their Indian counterparts to take the game forward.
Rahane (81) and Rohit Sharma (32) both fell cheaply on the second morning when India resumed at 311 for 4, Josh Hazlewood hitting exactly the right length to induce edges, and it was late contributions from Dhoni (33) and Ashwin (35), who added 57 runs in 67 balls, that powered India to a total of 408. Hazlewood ended with 5 for 68, just rewards for adapting quickly to the challenge before him in his first Test.

Please click here to see the full scorecard and follow live ball-by-ball coverage of Australia v India from Brisbane.

Similar Articles