India starts steadily after Smith's heroics

India ended the second day at 120 for one after centuries by Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell took Australia to 451.

Australian skipper Steve Smith, who scored his 19th Test ton, went past 5000 runs in the longest format of the game.   -  K. R. Deepak

The flow in the lanky K. L. Rahul’s batsmanship is hard to miss. His batting, rooted in classicism but modern for its sheer sense of adventure, is a lot about balance.

He stands tall, transfers weight to either leg with ease, and meets the ball with the sweet portion of the willow.

The opener batted with grace and style after the visiting team, powered by Steven Smith’s monumental unbeaten 178 – the highest score by an Australian captain in India - and Glenn Maxwell’s feisty 104, reached a challenging 451 in its first innings.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

India’s response was spirited. The host was 120 for one at stumps with Rahul’s 67 grabbing eyeballs on the second day of the third Test here on Friday.

On a surface that continues to favour batsmen – there are a couple of developing patches though – left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bowled with control in the first half of the day to scalp five.

Day two in pictures

Then, Rahul delighted, dominating a 91-run partnership for the first wicket with a resolute Murali Vijay. He appears to have so much time since he picks the length in a jiffy

He was decisive, either moving forward or going deep into his crease. A back-footed cover-drive off Pat Cummins was a top shot.

It was Cummins who eventually got Rahul through with a nasty short-pitched delivery that followed the batsman and kissed his gloves.

Read: Kohli making a good recovery

Bowling at speeds close to 150kmph and releasing from a rather explosive action, Cummins impressed.

Between periods of studious defence, Vijay (42 batting) gloriously cover-drove Josh Hazlewood and swept Nathan Lyon.

In the morning, Smith tormented India. His grip may be bottom-handed but the Aussie skipper was on top of the Indian attack. Like most bottom-handed batsmen, Smith is not the most fluent of drivers but can cut, punch and whip with confidence.

Smith invariably takes an off-stump guard but is particularly strong on the leg-side. His batting mantra is simple – defend the good deliveries solidly and put away the loose deliveries to the fence. It’s a pretty effective method too, one that has made him a run machine.

He displayed immense responsibility and strung together partnerships – the life-line of any innings. Smith put on 191 for the fifth with Maxwell, 64 for the sixth with Wade, who swept and whipped off a short back-lift, and 51 for the eighth with Steve O’Keefe.

Maxwell held firm as he neared century. His bat may have been broken by an Umesh Yadav delivery – the first of the morning – but Maxwell quickly got into his stride, punching Umesh and Ishant Sharma square on the off side for boundaries in this crucial session.

Paradoxically for an innings of discipline, restraint and calculated aggression, Maxwell reached the three-figure mark with a chancy stroke – an uppish cut off Umesh that streaked between the two slips. His innings was a lot about triumph of the spirit.

For India, Jadeja operated smartly. He consistently hit the area between back-of-a-length and good length, bowled a middle-and-off-stump line. On those occasions he hit the rough patches on the pitch, the left-arm spinner posed questions.

He got Maxwell with a delivery of turn and bounce, consumed the left-handed Wade with bounce after adeptly changing his line to the left-hander.

Jadeja normally bowls quicker through the air but took out Cummins with a deliciously flighted delivery that drifted in and spun away. He deserved his wickets.

And Jadeja’s back-flick to run-out out Hazelwood underlined his athleticism; and got a goodly crowd roaring.

With the surface not offering him much assistance, Ashwin toiled. When the off-spinner operates on pitches that aren’t quite spinner-friendly, the lack of sufficient hip drive and pivot hampers him from getting his entire body into his action for a potent side-on release. This, perhaps, reduces the amount of revs, on the ball.

Ashwin is a clever bowler though and makes up for this shortcoming through his dexterous wrists, large spinning fingers and subtle changes in trajectory and angles but can, with his rather chest on action, struggle when there is not enough purchase from the pitch.

The Aussies were not complaining.