???’I’ve got a frog in my throat’: Maxwell’s joy at maiden Test tonIndia v : as it happenedComment: Smith carries team on his shoulders
Ranchi: ‘s bowlers are locked in a gruelling battle of attrition as India launched a spirited fightback without their inspirational leader Virat Kohli.
The third Test remains anyone’s game after a grinding second day where the visitors blew a golden chance to bat India out of the match despite an unbeaten 178 to Steve Smith and a maiden Test century to Glenn Maxwell.
The ns have the advantage of runs on the board. History, too, is on their side as there have been only two instances where a side has lost a Test in India after making more than 450 in their first innings.
However, India showed during the series against England they can win from seemingly desperate positions by posting a huge reply then unleashing their match-winning spinners at the back end of the match.
India, who were 1-120 at stumps on the second day in pursuit of ‘s 451, have little reason not to believe they can repeat those performances on a wicket that has defied pre-game expectations and proven to be a batsman’s paradise.
That’s not to say it will stay that way – when pitches wear in India they do so dramatically, as England learned.
The hosts were given another boost with Kohli’s shoulder injury deemed external by the match referee, which means he can bat at No.4 despite his long absence from the field.
There are few signs of gremlins so far, however the scuff caused by the right-arm quicks at both ends will cause more concern to , who have four left-handers in their top seven compared to India’s zero.
had the chance to safeguard against this scenario but squandered it, with only Smith showing the ruthlessness to cash in.
The captain appeared far from happy as he left the field at the change of innings. He had wanted his team to bat big in the first innings.
The cost of their wastefulness was becoming apparent late on the second day when ‘s quicks found little assistance from the sluggish track.
Their only success came when Pat Cummins bent his back and defied the low bounce to get a delivery to rise sharply and catch the glove of Lokesh Rahul, who made 67.
Their total of 451, however, is a big improvement on their recent missions in Asia – it’s only the second time in their last 12 Tests on this continent that they have posted a score in excess of 400.
Smith reigned supreme in the benign conditions. Had there been last man’s tucker it’s conceivable he would still be at the crease such is the hold he has on India’s bowlers.
He is now averaging 90.5 in his past six Tests against India, his golden run starting when he deputised for Michael Clarke as captain during the 2014/15 series at home.
Maxwell resurrected his international career when needed him to fire and has left selectors with a major dilemma heading into next summer’s Ashes.
Having started the season at the crossroads, the mercurial all-rounder has now emerged as a potential magic pill to cure ‘s long headache at no.6.
One of the most talented players in the n system, Maxwell has promised at times to become a bona fide star but potential has outweighed performance throughout his 114-games for his country.
Pigeon-holed as a limited-overs specialist, Maxwell now has strong claims to be ‘s next long-term Test No.6 – but it will need a shift in philosophy from selectors.
The n brains trust is craving a batsman who can provide valuable overs to take the load off the frontline quicks. Their first preference has been for a seam-bowling all-rounder – hence the heavy investment into Mitchell Marsh – but options are now limited.
Marsh is facing a long stint on the sidelines as he recovers from a shoulder injury while Moises Henriques and James Faulkner are both out of favour at Test level.
His 104 was only the second century scored by an n at No.6 since Michael Hussey hung up his baggy green at the start of 2013.