Australia v Pakistan Tests
In a nutshell: Aussies in control in Brisbane
Steve Smith made Pakistan pay for missed chances while two of the hosts' new brigade fired on the series-opening day at the Gabba
Adam Burnett at the Gabba
15 December 2016, 09:18 PM AEST
The scorecard: Australia 3-288 (Smith 110no, Renshaw 71, Handscomb 64no. Amir 1-40)
The day in a tweet: Captain Fantastic! Smith rides luck but rules the Gabba with sweet 16th Test hundred as Aussies dominate day one #AUSvPAK
Technology picked it up, but not a soul at the Gabba managed to. Steve Smith had reached 97 when Mohammad Amir sent the second new ball past the outside edge of his blade and through to the wicketkeeper. Or so we thought. In fact, Snicko and Hot-Spot revealed the thinnest of edges, and Smith survived.
Smith has racked up more hundreds than anyone in world cricket since he posted his first against England in August 2013. This was number 16 and how sweet it was. Lives came on 53 and 97 so there was luck involved too. But after beginning cautiously he worked into his innings and slowly – then more steadily – turned the screws on the tourists. A couple of sublime pull shots from Rahat Ali got him going and from there it was vintage Smith, accelerating the run rate as day turned into night and stamping his class on the occasion.
The wrong rein
Mohammad Amir and Rahat Ali shared the new ball for Pakistan and in conditions that demanded precision, they fell short of the mark. Amir showed promise and induced several play-and-misses from Renshaw, but couldn't snare the breakthrough that may well have been decisive. Rahat's first ball was stroked through cover by Warner and thereafter he failed to find consistency in his lines and lengths, going at in excess of four runs an over for much of the day. After all the talk pre-match about Pakistan's quicks being capable of making inroads with the new, hard pink ball, it was somewhat of a surprise that Wahab was used as first change, a dozen overs into the contest when an abrasive Gabba surface had softened up the cherry. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq persisted with the same strategy second time around, handing the second new ball to the same pair.
The talking point
With the second new ball around 10 overs away, and the lights having taken hold, the last thing Pakistan needed was an injury to Mohammad Amir. So when the left-arm quick's right knee dug into the Gabba turf as he attempted to field a ball in the outfield and he was left writhing in pain, you could almost hear the collective groan from the Pakistan camp. He was assisted from the field by medical staff and the cricket world feared the worst … until, incredibly, he returned some 30 minutes later in a comeback of biblical proportions.
The (first) chance
Against the part-time-but-quite-handy spin of Azhar Ali, Smith tickled an edge through to Sarfraz Ahmed but the 'keeper wasn't up to the task. The ball crashed into his gloves and rebounded out just as quickly, giving the Australia captain a life on 53.
Smith brought up 2000 Test runs in Australia, in just his 39th innings. Nine of his 16 hundreds have come at home, and his average is in excess of 66 on home turf
The support cast
Matt Renshaw silenced the critics with a fine 71 that showed off his range of shots. The Queensland left-hander is tall and imposing, but it's his partly crouched stance and back-lift as the bowler approached that most resembles the great Matthew Hayden. He played and missed on a few occasions early in his innings, but just as he did in Adelaide, he shrugged off the misjudgements with a smile and carried on. Fellow second gamer Peter Handscomb was equally impressive, peeling off a second fifty in his third Test innings to provide excellent support to Smith in an unbroken 137-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Renshaw absolutely smoked a cover drive from Yasir Shah that fairly raced to the boundary, highlighting the young opener's confidence against the world-class spinner. In all, the Queenslander scored 34 from the 42 balls he faced from the leggie.
The marathon man
Yasir came on in the 11th over of the day, 40 minutes into the series, and proceeded to bowl 23 consecutive overs, before finally being replaced by part-time leggie Azhar Ali on the stroke of tea. He claimed Usman Khawaja's wicket in that time but was generally to leg-side in his line to the lefties, before teasing and tormenting right-hand pair Smith and Handscomb at times without ever appearing particularly dangerous.
Wahab Riaz bowled several excellent spells that were fast, hostile and accurate. While Amir was economical and occasionally threatening, Wahab loomed as a greater threat and shaded his younger teammate as the pick of the quicks across the day, earning the wicket of Renshaw for his efforts.
A difficult day for the tourists could get worse tomorrow, with Smith and Handscomb unbeaten and looking to go big. Misbah will rue missed opportunities while the Australians go to bed content with a dominant opening to the series.
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