On Wednesday night, Australia spin legend Shane Warne had told a select group of journalists at an interactive session that he hoped captain Steve Smith doesn’t pick too many left-handed batsmen in the side as it would ‘work straight in the hands of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin’. (LIVE BLOG)
A day later, Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Starc --- both left-handers --- struck contrasting half-centuries as they helped Australia reach a respectable total of 256 for the loss of nine wickets against India in the first Test of the four-match series.. (SCORECARD)
The visitors were reeling at 205/9 at one stage before Starc scored a quickfire 57 off 58 balls. Renshaw scored a gritty knock of 68 after recovering from an upset stomach that forced him to retire in the first session. Ashwin and Jadeja shared five wickets between them while Umesh Yadav picked up four to run through the opposition line-up.
It was a solid start by Warner and Renshaw on a pitch that was almost tailor-made for spinners to stifle the opposition. It was exceptionally dry pitch with loose top soil, prompting Virat Kohli to introduce spin in the very second over with Ravichandran Ashwin. Those were nervy moments for Australia, who had been preparing for such a pitch for the last couple of days but didn’t expect it to be turning prodigiously from the first session itself.
Both Warner and Renshaw hung on with neither trying to get on top of the opposition but just play out the overs. It was an understandable move with Kohli using all of three specialist spinners by the 18th over. The duo did miss a couple of deliveries outside the off-stump, including one that prompted Kohli to go upstairs for an unsuccessful review in the 10th over and another that rattled Warner’s leg-stump off a no-ball in the 15th over.
But it was Umesh who brought an end to the well-paced 82-run partnership between the two as Warner played on to his stumps. It proved to be a double whammy as Renshaw too left a minute later for an upset stomach, leaving Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh to play out the rest of the session.
Unbeaten on one off 16 and 18 deliveries respectively at lunch, the duo started off with a positive intent as they picked up 33 runs in the next 10 overs. Marsh however fell in the 47th over after mistiming a sweep to give a simple catch to Kohli at backward short-leg.
It was an excellent ploy as Jayant Yadav was consistently bowling on the leg stump to lure him into the shot while Kohli switched to the position just two deliveries prior to the dismissal. Peter Handscomb played a few fine shots in his brief stay at the crease but was trapped in front by Jadeja off a flatter delivery that held its line and didn’t turn much.
Renshaw came back on but Smith left four balls later as he holed a simple catch to Kohli at short mid-wicket off Ashwin. With two wickets in quick successions, India tried to pile on the pressure and almost had Mitchell Marsh sent back but a successful review overturned a caught-behind decision.
Renshaw’s gritty knock came to an end as Ashwin had him caught at second slip while Umesh removed Matthew Wade, Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe to reduce Australia to 205/9. Umesh bowled exceptionally well as he struck twice in his first over as a change bowler and was almost on the verge of a hattrick after sending back Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon off successive deliveries.
But India’s hopes of bundling out Australia for a paltry total were dashed by Starc as he struck five boundaries and three towering sixes to keep Australia in the game. He started his carnage with a slog sweep against Ashwin in the 83rd over that went for six runs before picking 17 off Ravindra Jadeja in the 88th to let his intentions known. He reached his half-century in style, hammering Ishant Sharma behind the square region for a pull before toning down to see off the day with Josh Hazlewood.