Another Steve Smith century has left Australia in a commanding position in the first Test against Pakistan, who were left to rue a stunning non-appeal when the Australian captain was three runs short of his 16th Test hundred.
The home side largely dominated day one of the pink ball Test at the Gabba, finishing 3-288 as Smith ended the night unbeaten on 110, with Peter Handscomb set to resume on day two after an assured 64.
It was an emotional final session for Smith, who kissed the helmet and swung the bat in unbridled joy as he broke the shackles of new-ball pressure and sent one to the fence to celebrate another milestone in his brief but brilliant career.
But it could have ended overs before if a single Pakistan fielder had put their hand up for a shout when Smith nicked one off Mohammad Amir that went straight to the keeper.
Not a single player flinched, let alone Smith, who went back to his business and eventually found the gap he needed to complete a masterful day-one innings in front of a record non-Ashes Gabba crowd of 26,343.
The Hot Spot replay and Snicko both showed a clear edge from Smith, who was also dropped on 53 in the final over before the dinner break. But if he had his share of luck, he made up for it with a confident captain’s knock to capitalise on the strong start from opener Matt Renshaw (71) and partner Handscomb, who looks every bit the Test player.
The Australians were surprised at the non-appeal. “I watched the replay and I thought, ‘That was really close… maybe they should check Hot Spot’,” Renshaw said. “Davey [Warner] came out and said, ‘He’s smacked it’. It was a bit of a surprise that nobody went up really.
“I walked into the dressing room quickly and he [Smith] was saying he smashed it. It was all good fun, though.”
Smith said he was impressed with the contribution of two of the recent newcomers to the top six, Handscomb and Renshaw.
“They played beautifully I thought,” Smith said. “There was a couple of good spells they got through. You’ve got to work hard. They did a great job today.”
Concern: Mohammad Amir is taken from the field injured. Photo: Getty Images
Pakistan’s night appeared to nosedive in the 70th over as spearhead Amir suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury while trying to field a ball in the deep at the Vulture Street end of the ground.
Amir circled around to try and cut off Handscomb’s drive before twisting his leg awkwardly as his knee dug into the turf. The concern was immediate as Amir was helped over the rope for treatment, then driven away by medicab staff for further assessment.
The incident immediately cast minds back to the infamous moment when England’s Simon Jones went down on the opening day of the 2002 Ashes series, an incident that added insult to what would turn out to be a nightmare day for the tourists.
Jones would be sidelined for more than six months after scans confirmed an ACL rupture. Luckily for Pakistan, Amir was sidelined for no more than six minutes before miraculously reappearing and warming up to take the new ball.
Renshaw had earlier been in sight of a fairytale first Test century on home soil and while that eluded him he left a lasting impression.
The 20-year-old had ushered Australia to victory with a patient innings on day four of the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide but as his Queensland captain Usman Khawaja had warned, there was much more to his game than defence and he set up his team nicely on day one.
Renshaw said on match eve that playing Test cricket at his age felt like he was in a video game. After all, before his call-up to the Australian side he had bought a ticket for the Gabba Test and was meant to be sitting with his friends from Brisbane club Toombul, whose bright orange hats made them impossible to miss in the bottom tier at the Stanley Street end on Thursday. Having to make do without him, they filled his seat with a mannequin with a picture of Renshaw’s face as the real thing took centre stage.
He ran out of lives when the excellent Wahab Riaz enticed him into an edge that flew to Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed but it may be a very long time until Renshaw is watching a Test here as a spectator again.
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