Australia put hapless India on the rack on day two of the fourth Test at the SCG, declaring on a mammoth 7/572 before dislodging an opener in the third ball of the tourists’ innings.
India recovered to be 1/71 at stumps, but it’s a long road back to save the match with three days still to play.
Every Australian batsman contributed. After the day 1 heroics of David Warner and Chris Rogers, Steve Smith blazed past 100 for the fourth time in the series early on day 2. Shane Watson reached 81 before holing out at deep mid-wicket to Mohammed Shami – the frustration of failing to capitalise on another start written all over the struggling veteran No.3’s face after a painstaking 183-ball stay.
Smith left six overs later for 117, but the enigmatic Shaun Marsh (73) and Joe Burns (58), playing in his second Test, put on 114 for the fifth wicket.
Brad Haddin strode to the crease and hammered a six off the first ball he faced, before Ryan Harris blasted five boundaries in a thrilling nine-ball cameo that garnered 25.
Shami claimed the wicket of Harris to finished with a well-deserved five-for, after which Smith decided Australia had enough on the board.
India’s innings could not have got off to a more miserable start. Mitchell Starc had Murali Vijay caught behind in the first over to heap more pressure on the tourists.
Lokesh Rahul, promoted to open despite a dreadful debut at the MCG, played with patience to finish unbeaten on 31, while recalled Rohit Sharma – bumped up to No.3 – hit two sixes and three boundaries on his way to 40 not out.
Stud of the day
He scored the bulk of his runs on day 1, but Steve Smith’s century underlined his burgeoning class and confidence, while indicating criticism of his ‘negative’ captaincy in the third Test had not affected him in the slightest. The 25-year-old is averaging a shade under 140 in his seven innings this series, and calls are growing for Smith to promote himself to No.3. He became just the fifth Australian batsman to record a century in four consecutive Tests, adding his name to an illustrious list that includes Don Bradman, Neil Harvey, Jack Fingleton and Matthew Hayden.
If India digs in and can bat through day 3, they at least put themselves in the frame to save the Test. New captain and standout batsman Virat Kohli is next man in, followed by MCG star Anjinkya Rahane – but lower than that, the Indian batting order has been appalling throughout the series. They need to show some resistance.
Australia’s top six batsman all made half-centuries for the first time ever, while it was just the sixth time in Test history any batting order has achieved the feat.
Around the world
New Zealand claimed a 193-run victory and a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka on the last day of the second Test in Wellington, taking the required nine wickets to have the tourists all out for 196. Brilliant catching and four wickets to spinner Mark Craig were the backbone of the Black Caps’ final-day display. It was a remarkable effort from the hosts after incurring a 135-run first innings deficit, with their 5/524dec in their second dig setting up the resounding success. Kane Williamson, who scored 69 and 242 not out and took a stunning catch, was named man of the match.