Steve Smith (111) scored yet another century – his third in the series – as Australia were bowled out for 300 in their first innings after electing to bat first in the fourth Test at Dharamsala on Saturday. Smith’s brilliance in the first session was overshadowed by a virtuoso display of spin by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav (4/68), who made his debut after India skipper Virat Kohli was deemed unfit to play.
Australia were running away with the contest through Smith and David Warner’s (53) breezy 134-run stand for the second wicket. but India stormed their way back in the second session on what looked like largely batsman-friendly conditions. Matthew Wade chipped in with a crucial 57 down the order to take his team to 300. After bowling out the visitors, India played out one over without scoring before stumps.
Australia blazed away in the first session, with the scoring rate at one stage climbing well over five. There was hardly any turn on offer for the spinners and the fielding was sloppy by the Indians. They could have got Warner out in the first ball of the day’s play but a thick edge off Umesh Yadav could only find the fingers of Karun Nair and race away to the fence.
After Matt Renshaw’s wicket, it certainly looked as though India were paying for their costly miss on the field. For the first time in the series, Warner was in his element and was severe on the off side, but was nowhere close to being the enforcer that he so often is: He waited for the bad deliveries to free his arms.
Meanwhile, Smith made it look like he was batting on a different pitch compared to his teammates. The euphoria of picking up an early wicket died down almost immediately for the Indians as the Australia captain dealt with boundaries on both sides of the wicket. With the Indian pacers looking to square him up on a pitch that was nowhere close to posing any serious threat to the outside edges of the batters.
Smith played his trademarks drives and flicks on the leg side with ease, and importantly, the scoring rate wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fifty-over game.
India needed to start well in the second session to come anywhere close to getting back in the contest. Thankfully for them, they only had to wait for 19 deliveries before Warner was sent packing, but not before he ended his run-drought in this series with a half-century. Cramped for room while going for a cut shot, the nick from Warner’s blade was was pouched by Ajinkya Rahane, who showed cat-like reflexes to hold on to the catch.
Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell fell in quick succession. Marsh chased after a slightly wide delivery from Umesh Yadav down the leg side, and the ball took a faint deflection off his gloves before reaching Saha’s hands. Handscomb was left wondering what hit him as the ball viciously spun off the rough and came into the batsman, breaching his defence comfortably and hitting the stumps.
Maxwell, though, got a delivery that spun the other way, pitching on middle and leg and clipping the top of off stump. Smith, stranded at the other end, brought up his 20th Test century and the third of this series. He also equaled Alastair Cook’s record for maximum number of centuries by a visiting captain. Smith departed with only a few overs left for the tea break. Rahane, once again, pulled off a stunning take from slip.
Pat Cummins and Wade resurrected the Australian innings with the former in particular showing aggressive intent. The Australia keeper rallied with the tail to score a fighting half-century before having his stumps broken by Jadeja while going for a big sweep. KL Rahul played out one Josh Hazlewood over before stumps.
- Australia 300 (Steve Smith 111, David Warner 56; Kuldeep Yadav 4/68, Umesh Yadav 2/69) lead India 0/0 by 300 runs