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Skipper Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh struck centuries, sending an ominous message that Australia will be a tough nut to crack in the four-Test series starting in Pune on February 23.Put into bat by India ‘A’ in their only three-day game before the series, Australia posted 327 for three on Day One at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday.Smith (107 off 161 balls) and Marsh (104 off 173 balls) retired after reaching the three-figure mark. Smith smashed 12 boundaries and six while Marsh hit 11 fours and one six. At stumps, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade were on 16 and seven respectively.Aggressive startThere was no change in David Warner’s approach as he looked to attack from the beginning. He set the early tempo with four boundaries, but pacer Navdeep Saini got the leading edge as the left-handed batsman looked to pull a short delivery.
The Haryana pacer struck again, removing the other opener, Matt Renshaw. Having batted patiently for 11 off 41 balls, Rehshaw poked at a short delivery, and edged to wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan.Smith and Marsh steadied the innings with a 156-run third wicket stand. The India A bowlers tried every trick to get the Australian duo, but they hardly gave them a chance. Ahead of the India tour, the Australia players had been advised to develop the sweep shot if they had to succeed in India, after the way former opener Matthew Hayden dominated the bowling in the iconic 2001 series. Although India rallied to win 2-1, but the big left-hander was outstanding, standing outside the crease to negate the spinners as he amassed 549 runs at an average of 109.8.Cautious approachSmith and Marsh though hardly deployed the sweep shot, and neither was troubled by the Indian attack. Both took the cautious approach and looked to spend as much time as possible in the middle.Apart from Warner, none of the Aussie batsmen looked in a hurry to score runs — an approach they are expected to adopt during the Tests.Smith brought up his century with a crisp cut off off-spinner Akhil Herwadkar, shortly before Australia put up 200 on the board. The Australian skipper retired as Peter Handscomb joined Marsh after tea break.Marsh, however, was not as fluent as Smith. He gave India ‘A’ bowlers a chance to dismiss him, but Saini dropped a straightforward chance at midwicket off Herwadkar’s bowling when he was on 88.
Australia's captain Steve Smith (L) plays a shot as India 'A' wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan looks on. (AFP)
The sweep shot was on display the first time when Marsh used it against Herwadkar to reach his century.Saini, who suffered cramp in his groin while bowling his 11th over, was the only India ‘A’ bowler to impress with figures of 12.4-4-27-2. Ashoke Dinda, who completed the remaining two deliveries of Saini’s over, bowled some probing deliveries but was unable to get a breakthrough.K Gowtham, the Karnataka off-spinner, suffered an injury after the lunch break and was sent for a scan.To prevent the Aussies from reading chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who is part of the Test squad, was released from the squad on the eve of the match. Sri Lanka’s chinaman spinner Lakshan Sandakan had troubled the Australian batsmen last year during a three-Test series in the island nation. He claimed nine wickets as Sri Lanka won 3-0.
Australia's David Warner (L) looks on as India 'A' captain Hardik Pandya delivers a ball during the first day of three-day practice cricket match between India 'A' and Australia at The Brabourne Cricket Stadium. (AFP)