Steve Smith had done exactly what his side had wanted at the start of the Test, he’d won the toss and decided to bat.
The opening partnership had, as has often been the case recently, got the team off to a good start but that ended when David Warner, on 19, inexplicably hit Ravi Jadeja’s fourth delivery of the day straight back to the bowler.
Matt Renshaw’s dismissal was also hard to explain. He’d made 44 when he tried to guide a delivery from Umesh Yadav towards the slip cordon. The ball fell just short of second slip. Next ball he tried the same shot again but this time simply steered it to Virat Kohli at first slip.
“We probably would have liked to score a few more runs in the top order,” Renshaw said. “I thought that we probably all got a good start but just didn’t get on with it and make a big score like Steve did and he showed us how to go today”.
When Shaun Marsh fell for two to a bat-pad catch off Ravi Ashwin Australia was in danger of losing the advantage the toss had given them on a pitch that has played well but is expected to deteriorate.
Smith’s assured presence at the crease saw Australia lose only one more wicket for the day when Yadav produced an inswinging Yorker that hit Handscomb’s pad right in front of the stumps that brought Glenn Maxwell to the crease.
Maxwell had only scored 125 runs for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield in the five innings that he played before flying to India and had taken just a single wicket at a cost of 86 runs.
India would have known if they could remove Maxwell with just Matthew Wade and the tail to come, weakened by the absence of Mitchell Starc, they would gain the upper hand.
The match and the series had reached a crucial stage.
Smith, though, was still there. He’d scored 100 in Australia’s second innings in Pune to help set up his team’s huge win in the first Test. In Ranchi he was simply in complete control.
Maxwell seemed composed and assured.
“I personally have never played with him so I’m not sure if it’s normal or something different but I think he looked petty calm and relaxed,” Renshaw said.
Although he’d never played alongside him before, Renshaw wasn’t surprised by Maxwell’s success.
“He might have played a couple of bad shots but he didn’t play so he got out like a couple of the others did,” he said. “Like I did. I think that he just made the most of it and made a big score. He’s a class player and he showed that he can do it in Test cricket today and hopefully he can continue that tomorrow.”
Maxwell wasn’t there to play his booming shots over the infield. He was there to stay with his captain and build Australia’s position and that’s exactly what he did. In the end he launched a couple of sixes into the crowd with the first bringing up his maiden Test fifty.
Meanwhile, India had their own injury concern. In the 40th over Kohli had to leave the field with a right shoulder problem. He injured it while chasing down and diving for a ball to prevent it going for a boundary. He didn’t return.
Meanwhile Smith and Maxwell took their partnership to 159 runs and put Australia into a strong position.
They will be looking to produce more of the same for their team on day two and Maxwell will being eyeing an excellent maiden Test hundred that’s only 18 runs away.