BRISBANE, Australia: Steve Smith turned two lucky breaks into his 16th test century and first against Pakistan, guiding Australia to 288-3 at stumps on the opening day of the series.
Smith was unbeaten on 110 when the first night session ever in a Gabba test concluded Thursday, his 192-ball innings including important partnerships of 76 and 137 with newcomers Matt Renshaw (71) and Peter Handscomb.
The 20-year-old Renshaw, playing on his home ground, scored his first test half century, and Handscomb produced his second half century in as many tests to remain unbeaten on 64 at the close of play.
The crowd built up in the night session to a non-Ashes record of 26,434, but the run-rate slowed down as the batsmen were beaten time and again by the new pink ball under lights.
Mohammad Amir returned to take the new ball after 80 overs, after spending almost a half hour off the field getting treatment on his right knee following a tumble in the outfield, and was unlucky not to dismiss Smith for 97.
Smith appeared to feather a catch through to the wicketkeeper, according to hot-spot and snicko technology used for video reviews, but none of the Pakistan players appealed for the dismissal and the Australia captain reached triple figures in the 87th over with his 15th boundary of the innings.
Renshaw agreed Smith made the most of his luck, and confessed to teammates after play that he’d “smashed” the ball.
Smith had another reprieve just before the dinner interval on 53, when he got a faint edge to a delivery from part-time legspinner Azhar Ali but wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed was unable to glove the catch.
Explaining the bizarre lapse when Smith was on 97, Azhar said none of the Pakistan players heard bat on ball or saw any deflection so didn’t appeal.
“No one really noticed anything, so none of our guys even went up slightly,” he said. “Just a bit of luck with the batsman it happens sometimes.”
The situation could have been worse for Pakistan had Amir seriously injured his right knee. The paceman slumped to the ground, clutching the knee, after misfielding a ball in the outfield in the 70th over.
He was taken from the field on a cart with Australia on 220-3 and appeared to be out of action at least for the remainder of the day, but went back on after the next break and was ready to take the second new ball.
Azhar said the Amir was feeling OK.
Conditions were perfect for batting on a warm, dry afternoon in subtropical Brisbane where Smith won the toss and elected to bat, retaining the same XI which ended Australia’s five-test losing streak with a win against South Africa in Adelaide last month.
Renshaw, who made his international debut in Adelaide, stroked nine boundaries in 125 balls before running out of patience against the consistent line from Wahab Riaz (1-52) and getting caught behind.
It was the only wicket to fall after the first session, when Pakistan struck twice in 10 balls.
Amir ended the 70-run opening stand by trapping David Warner (32) lbw in the 24th over, and Usman Khawaja (4) hit one boundary before stepping down the pitch and chipping legspinner Yasir Shah to Pakistan skipper Mishab-ul-Haq at short mid-wicket.
Australia suffered series losses to South Africa and Sri Lanka, but is growing in confidence and has an enviable record at the Gabba, where it hasn’t lost a test since 1988.
Pakistan, coming off a series loss in New Zealand, has lost nine straight tests in Australia and has never won a test in Brisbane.—AP