RANCHI: Australian skipper Steve Smith silenced his critics with a gritty century on Thursday’s opening day of the third Test against India, before declaring he had moved on from his war of words with Virat Kohli.
The visitors were 299 for four at stumps after electing to bat first in their 800th Test at a venue which is hosting its first ever five-day international, with Smith unbeaten on 117 and Glenn Maxwell on 82.
Smith, at the centre of a major row after being accused by Kohli of systematically abusing the decision review system (DRS) in the last Test in Bangalore, put on 159 runs with Maxwell to lift Australia from 140-4.
The 27-year-old Smith brought up his 19th Test century with a boundary off Murali Vijay, raising his bat to the acknowledge the generous applause of the home crowd.
“You cannot control the past. I came out and said I made a mistake and moved on from there,” said Smith, who had admitted to a “brain fade” in Bangalore after looking up for guidance while mulling a review for lbw.
“And 4 for 300, we will take that, but tomorrow is going to be a crucial day for us,” he added.
Smith, who crossed the 5,000-run mark in his 52nd Test, became the first Australian captain to score two hundreds in a series in India. He hit 109 in the opener in Pune.
West Indies’ Clive Lloyd (1974-75 and 1983-84) and England’s Alastair Cook (2012-13) are the only other international captains to have scored two or more centuries during a series in India.
At the other end Maxwell, who was drafted into the XI in place of injured Mitchell Marsh, changed gears after reaching his fifty with a six off Ravindra Jadeja.
Maxwell, playing his fourth Test, smashed 5 fours and 2 sixes as he took the attack to the opposition in the final session of play.
The stand between Smith and Maxwell is Australia’s best for the fifth wicket in India, surpassing the 145-run partnership between Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade during the second Test of the 2013 series.
“Maxi played beautifully. Stuck to his plans and struck the bad balls. It is a good pitch so we will need all the runs we can get,” said Smith of India’s newest Test venue.
While Smith was enjoying a satisfying day at the office, his opposite number Kohli injured his right shoulder while fielding in the 40th over and stayed in the pavilion for the rest of the day.
Kohli fell awkwardly while trying to save a boundary at long-on and instantly left the field while clutching his shoulder. He was later seen putting on ice packs in the dressing room and is to undergo a scan.
The injury comes after a string of low scores for Kohli who angered the Australians by claiming Smith’s actions in Bangalore were part of a concerted effort to abuse DRS rather than being a one-off lapse.
Smith, who hit 13 boundaries in an otherwise sedate knock, put on 51 runs for the fourth wicket with Peter Handscomb (19) after Australia lost three wickets in the morning.
Opening batsman Matt Renshaw (44) gave the visitors a brisk start before undoing his hard work by edging a wide Umesh Yadav delivery, with Kohli taking the catch at first slip.
Renshaw and David Warner had put on 50 runs for the opening wicket before left-arm spinner Jadeja struck in his first over to get Warner (19) trudging back to the pavilion.
“We would have liked to score a few more runs in the top-order. Probably got a good start but didn’t get on with it and get a big score like Steve did. He showed us how to go today,” Renshaw told reporters.
“He (Smith) has handled this whole situation (the DRS controversy) really well and showed that we are here for a cricket series.”
The four-match series is tantalisingly poised at 1-1 with India needing at least a draw to have any chance of winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.