Tuesday 20 March 2018 / 01:52 AM


Australia’s worst pre-tour fears – and some they probably hadn’t considered – were realised on the first day of the opening Test against India.

Struggling in the oppressive Pune heat, Australia crawled to 9/256 at stumps, with only an ill but defiant Matt Renshaw and a swashbuckling Mitchell Starc saving them from complete capitulation.

India’s primary spin threats, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, picked up two wickets apiece, but it was seamer Umesh Yadav who was the chief destroyer, taking 4/32.

Renshaw and David Warner put on 82 for the first wicket before Warner was bowled by Yadav for 38, but the drama compounded as Renshaw followed his opening partner to the pavilion due to an upset stomach.

Renshaw’s temporary retirement brought a scathing rebuke from Australian legend Allan Border, who said, “I hope he is lying on the table in there half dead. Otherwise as captain I would not be happy,” on Fox Sports’ lunch break show.

Fellow former Test captain Michael Clarke was equally bemused in the commentary box: “What is going on here? He’s retiring ill?”

“Only 15 minutes to lunch, I cannot believe Renshaw is retiring. He must be extremely sick.”

Renshaw’s departure left two new batsmen – Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh – at the crease, and the contentiously recalled Marsh could only make 16 before falling to the offspin of Jayant Yadav. Renshaw returned after Peter Handscomb (22) was trapped lbw by Jadeja, while Smith (27) was removed by Ashwin in the following over to leave the visitors at 4/149.

Mitch Marsh (4), like his brother a controversial pick, did little to ward off the critics, while Wade (8) fell similarly cheaply, Renshaw’s resistance finished on 68, and Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon got out to Umesh Yadav for ducks.

Australia were reeling at 9/205, before Starc began teeing off.

With No.11 Josh Hazlewood (1 off 31 balls) frustrating the Indian bowlers at one end, Starc bludgeoned five fours and three sixes before the end of the day’s play, finishing 57 not out off just 58 balls.

Despite his gastrointestinal troubles, Renshaw became the youngest Australian ever to score a half-century in India (20 years and 332 days), beating the record of Rick Darling by a year and a half – but India were well on top heading into Day 2 of the series opener.

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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