A brilliant partnership between Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson, and a lower order assault the Indian tourists would kill for, powered Australia to a 97-run first innings lead on day 3 of the second Test at the Gabba. India toiled their way to 1/71 at stumps, but the heroics of the hosts’ batsmen had undeniably swung the momentum of the match.
Resuming at 4/221, Australia were in a tight spot after Mitchell Marsh (11) and Brad Haddin (6) fell disappointingly cheaply. But Johnson strode to the pitch and turned back the clock, belting 13 fours and a six in compiling a thrilling 88 from 93 balls. It was his highest Test score in almost two years.
Smith cruised past 100 as the pair put on 148 runs for the seventh wicket, before Ishant Sharma had Johnson caught behind just short of his second Test ton. Smith departed just five balls later for 133, bowled by Sharma.
But the lower order stepped up big time: Mitchell Starc displayed the aggression and confidence that was missing from his first innings bowling performance with 52 from 59 deliveries; Nathan Lyon chipped in with 23 from as many balls; and No.11 Josh Hazlewood’s magical debut continued with seven boundaries in an impressive 32 not out, Australia all out for 505.
Australia’s innings had hummed along at 4.60 runs per over, but the weary Indians were forced to dig in, finding the fence just eight times in 23 overs as they grinded away at three runs an over.
Starc’s renaissance claimed the scalp of first innings century-maker Murali Vijay, bowled for 27 in the 11th over, leaving no doubt as to which team had the better of the third day.
Stud of the day
What a captain’s knock from Steve Smith – he is rocketing towards superstar status. The 25-year-old is averaging 347 for the series; that is obviously helped along by his two not out scores in Adelaide, but even if he records three consecutive ducks in his remaining digs, he’ll still boast a shade under 87 by the end of the series.
After a cautious start, Johnson flayed back-to-back powerful fours off Ishant Sharma, signalling that the Australian lower order juggernaut was about to get rolling.
Australia may have grabbed the ascendancy, but India – with the likes of Kohli, Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Dhoni and Ashwin to come – can snatch it back with a big day 4 at the crease. The Australian bowling attack will have their tails up after a strong day 2 comeback and their respective outstanding efforts with the bat, so it will take a mighty effort from India to set a formidable target and get in a position to potentially win the Test.
Smith became the first Australian to hit a century on captaincy debut since Graeme Yallop in the summer of 1978-79.
Around the world
New Zealand claimed a confidence-boosting series victory over Pakistan in the UAE with a 68-run win in the deciding fifth match in Abu Dhabi. Kane Williamson (97) and Ross Taylor (88 not out) put on 116 for the third wicket, seeing the Black Caps through to 4/275 after they chose to bat. But young fast bowler Matt Henry was a resounding man-of-the-match, helping skittle Pakistan for 207 in the 44th over with 5/30 in just his sixth ODI outing. Henry dismissed both openers and took the key wicket of Younis Khan in his first spell, before returning late in the piece to get rid of lower order danger-men Sarfraz Ahmed and Shahid Afridi. Stand-in skipper Williamson was named man of the series after leading from the front by averaging 86.5 with the bat as New Zealand stated their World Cup intentions.