Smith and Marsh make it tons of toil for India A

Taking advantage of a listless bowling attack, Australians warm up in style after captain Smith and Marsh pull off centuries

Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh discuss a point at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Friday.   -  PTI

In what is being termed as perhaps its most difficult challenge in India, the Australians got off the blocks on a decent note, with captain Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh piling on hundreds against a beleaguered India A bowling attack. Despite notching up 327-5, including retirements of both the centurions, the Australian contingent would be aware that the batsmen haven’t really been tested by quality spin so far.

India A, who inserted Australia into bat at the Brabourne Stadium, suffered a double blow soon after lunch as its key paceman Navdeep Saini and off-spinner K. Gowtham both had to go off the field due to fitness issues. While Saini, who had seen the back of both the openers in his opening spell, suffered cramps in his first over after lunch, Gowtham pulled his hamstring even before he got an opportunity to bowl. He later underwent a scan, the results of which are awaited. Saini returned to the field soon after but bowled only two more overs with the second new ball.

It presented the set pair of Smith and Marsh--preferred over another left-hander Usman Khawaja in the team--with an opportunity to make a meat of a plethora of part-timers who were forced to bowl. Of the 41 overs of spin bowled during the day’s play, 18 were by part-timers.

And on a wicket that had a tinge of live grass, Shahbaz Nadeem could hardly ask any questions of the set batsmen. The left-arm spinner was introduced into the attack in the 24th over, the last of the morning session. But Smith and Marsh continued to play him with élan. The Australian captain scored 48 runs off 66 balls he faced from Nadeem, hitting him for his solitary six straight over the bowler’s head. Smith raised the bat for his hundred with a backfoot punch through covers off part-time offie Akhil Herwadkar that fetched his three runs just before tea. The batsman retired at the break soon afterwards.

Even the left-handed Marsh, the most elegant batsman on display, had little trouble in rotating strike against Nadeem, who at times erred in length. That 24 off the 32 runs Marsh scored off Nadeem came on the on-side indicates the ease with which Marsh batted against him.

However, the morning session saw the pace triumvirate of Pandya, Dinda and Saini posing a lot of problems to the left-handed opening combination of David Warner and Matt Renshaw. Saini, brought in as first change, struck with his fourth ball, hurrying Warner with a short ball. The pull shot could only be top-edged for ’keeper Ishan Kishan, who had a mediocre outing behind the stumps, to complete a running overhead catch. Renshaw then poked off one off good length from Saini to offer a regulation catch to Kishan.

Pandya came to party with the second new ball, striking in the first over to see the back of Peter Handscomb, who impressed with his drives.

Scoreboard

Australians first innings: David Warner c Kishan b Saini 25, Matt Renshaw c Kishan b Saini 11, Steven Smith retired out 107, Shaun Marsh retired out 104, Peter Handscomb c Panchal b Pandya 45, Mitchell Marsh (batting) 16, Matthew Wade (batting) 7.

Extras (b-4, lb-2, nb-6) 12

Total (for 5 wkts, 90 overs) 327

Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-55, 3-211, 4-290, 5-305.

Bowling: Ashok Dinda 15.2-1-49-0, Hardik Pandya 17-3-64-1, Navdeep Saini 12.4-4-27-2, Shahbaz Nadeem 23-0-90-0, Akhil Herwadkar 11-0-48-0, Shreyas Iyer 7-0-32-0, Priyank Panchal 4-0-11-0.