Australia coach Darren Lehmann says he has no qualms with Steve Smith’s decision to almost exclusively bowl the tourists’ frontline bowlers during India’s marathon first innings of the third Test.
Australia bowled a 42-year high 210 overs in Ranchi and all but four overs were taken by the four-prong attack of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon.
Quick Single: Script flipped as India seize control
Smith employed allrounder Glenn Maxwell for the balance, a surprisingly modest workload that was questioned by former Australia captain and Star Sports commentator Michael Clarke.
Australia failed to take a wicket until after tea on day four as Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha combined for a record seventh-wicket stand of 199 to frustrate Smith and his charges.
But Lehmann said after play he had no issue with Smith only using Maxwell for two overs on Sunday while Australia’s primary bowlers plugged away on a lifeless pitch.
“I think that’s captain’s call obviously,” Lehmann said when asked about Maxwell’s light workload.
“We did speak about it, chopping and changing (the bowlers) a little bit.
Quick Single: Stats wrap: Records tumble in Ranchi
“The game was always on a knife’s edge so you always want your best spinners going.
“And we chopped and changed a little bit (but Maxwell) probably could have bowled a few more overs.
“But I thought the spinners toiled really hard as well so that’s a call the captain makes out there and (we're) happy with that.”
While Lehmann was content with Smith’s tactics, Clarke wanted to see more of the Victorian allrounder as India slowly ate up the first-innings deficit before building a 152-run lead.
"Maxwell should definitely have bowled more than two overs ... If India continue like this, (Smith) is not going to have a choice," Clarke said on Star Sports prior to the off-spinner's second short stint at the crease.
"Maxwell needs to be bowling more than two overs. He needs to be given a chance.
"On good batting wickets, if you keep doing the same things then you're going to keep getting the same results.
"Australia missed a trick yesterday. They were quite defensive with their fields, a new batsman came out and there were three or four guys on the boundary."
Australia’s bowlers gutsed it out in Ranchi, none more so than left-arm spinner O’Keefe who bowled 77 overs, the most by an Australian since Victoria’s Jim Higgs sent down 79.4 against England in 1979.
Hazlewood and Cummins also set new personal bests for most overs bowled in an innings and now the pair have just five days before the fourth Test in Dharamsala, including the possibility of bowling on day five in Ranchi.
But Australia’s focus will not be on their bowlers on day five.
At stumps on day four the tourists are 2-23 and 129 runs away from making India bat again.