The batting heroics of Steve Smith, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris put Australia in control of the third Test at the MCG, but India remained in the contest after making a strong start to their first innings on day 2.
Smith powered his way to another ton early in the day, while Haddin posted his first half-century in 15 Test innings. The pair’s key 110-run partnership ended when Mohammed Shami removed Haddin caught behind.
Second Test lower order hero Mitchell Johnson made a quick-fire 28 before being stumped by MS Dhoni off Ravi Ashwin’s bowling.
This time, it was Ryan Harris’ turn to produce a big score from the lower reaches of the batting list, the No.9 blasting his best Test score of 74 off just 88 balls as Australia continued to up the run-rate after a grafting first day.
Harris dominated the scoring in the 110-run stand with Smith, eventually trapped lbw by Ashwin. Nathan Lyon became Shami’s fourth victim when he fell to his fellow spinner for 11.
Meanwhile, Smith ratcheted the tempo up a couple of gears to charge to his highest Test score and pass David Warner as Australia’s most prolific run-getter in 2014. He was dismissed just short of a maiden Test double-century, bowled by Umesh Yadav as the hosts’ superb dig finished at an imposing 530.
Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan made a bright start to the tourists’ reply, before the two Australian batting stars combined to remove the latter with India’s score on 55. Dhawan was out for 28 caught Smith, bowled Harris.
But Vijay (55 not out) and Cheteshwar Pujara (25 not out) advanced India to 108 without further loss by the end of a day’s play that produced 379 runs.
Stud of the day
After missing the second Test with a quad strain, Ryan Harris enjoyed a marvellous day. His stirring 74 – which included eight fours and a six – belied his position in the batting order and had all-rounder written all over it. The wicket of Dhawan was icing on the cake for ‘Rhino’, who posted figures of 1/19 and three maidens from seven overs.
Brad Haddin put down Pujara with India on 79. It was a fairly regulation chance for the veteran – particularly given his form with the gloves of late – and one that Australia could be made to pay for.
The morning session on day 3 is a make or break period. If India can move past 200 before lunch with only one or two down, they can start eyeing off Australia’s mammoth first innings total. But a couple of early wickets could provide the hosts with the impetus to forge on to a crushing victory.
Steve Smith became the first Australian to score centuries in three consecutive Tests since Matthew Hayden in the 2007-08 home series against India.
Around the world
New Zealand added just 12 runs to their overnight score to be all out for 441, but a barnstorming bowling display by the rampant hosts ensured a 303-run first innings lead over Sri Lanka. Captain Angelo Mathews top-scored with 50, but no other Sri Lankan batsman made more than 24 as Trent Boult (3/25), Neil Wagner (3/60), Tim Southee (2/17) and Jimmy Neesham (2/28) combined to roll the tourists for 138. Brendon McCullum enforced the follow-on, but Sri Lanka survived on 0/84 by the end of day 2 in Christchurch.