On a day when Australia’s T20 side was taking on Sri Lanka at the MCG, Captain Steven Smith struck a century miles away from the iconic ground at another historic venue, the Cricket Club of India in a warm-up match against India A. The visitors posted 327/3 in 90 overs at the end of first day’s play on Friday.
Australia lost two wickets in the first session and one in the third after dominating the second session in which they added 130 runs in 33 overs courtesy a solid 156-run stand between Shaun Marsh and Smith. Ahead of the first Test against India in Pune from February 21, the visitors excluded Usman Khawaja from the XI, giving an indication of the possible batting line-up for the opening Test.
The visitors survived an anxious moment immediately after the start of play when Ashoke Dinda’s fifth ball thudded into the pads of Matthew Renshaw.
It was Renshaw’s first ball of the day and the opener heaved a sigh of relief when the umpire judged him not out. On a pitch with enough tinge of green, captain Hardik Pandya decided to bowl first and made his intentions clear by having three slips and a gully. He shared the new ball with Dinda and bowled an opening spell of seven overs.
David Waner started in a typically attacking manner hitting four boundaries before he was done in a by a short ball from Navdeep Saini. The Delhi bowler looked impressive with his seam position. Looking to pull, Warner only managed to get a top edge and was caught by wicket-keeper Ishan Kishan.
Saini was rewarded again and removed Warner’s partner Matthew Renshaw (11) with a beautiful inswinger. After testing the left-hander with away going deliveries, Saini changed the angle and came around the wicket and Had Renshaw caught behind. At Lunch, Australia were 81/2 but the experienced Smith changed the course in the second session. After getting to his half-century in 72 balls, Smith batted freely and stepped out on a few occasions to bring up his century in 186 minutes off 154 balls.
The partnership continued to blossom and India A were forced to operate with part-timers to accompany Shahbaz Nadeem as Karnataka off-spinner K Gowtham pulled up his hamstring and had to be taken for a scan. Mumbai’s Akhil Herwadkar and Shreyas Iyer bowled 18 overs before Priyank Panchal was summoned to bowl four overs.
Smith did not return to bat in the final session. Marsh was on 88 when Saini dropped him off Herwadkar’s bowling and then went on to get his century in 171 balls with a sweep shot. Like Smith, he too retired after his century. Pandya picked up his first wicket of the day when he had Handscomb caught by Panchal soon after taking the second new ball.
Brief score: Australia 327/3 in 90 overs (Steve Smith 107 retired, Shaun Marsh 104 retired, Peter Handscomb 45, David Warner 25, Navdeep Saini 2/27)