An excellent partnership between Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson helped Australia take the lead on Day 3 of the second Test match against India.
Another century for Smith and a commendable 88 from Johnson led the hosts to 505 all out, meaning they boasted a 97-run advantage after both teams completed their first innings. The Baggy Greens then struck with the ball late on in the day, leaving India 71-1, and 26 runs behind going into the penultimate day of the Test.
Here’s a recap of how Day 3 played out and a look at how the match is shaping up:
Having gotten his eye in on Day 2—finishing on 65 not out—there was always a sense that stand-in skipper Smith would go on to continue his glittering form here in Brisbane. And while the 25-year-old is never the easiest on the eye, he produced the goods again here on Day 3.
Leading by example, he helped push Australia up to within touching distance of India’s first innings total and went on to notch his sixth Test century in the process. Here are some of the best moments from his outstanding knock, courtesy of the Cricket Australia Twitter account, and as we can see, it’s a score that clearly meant a lot to the man from Sydney:
Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle praised the improvements in Smith’s game as of late:
Indeed, there’s a certain similarity between the New South Welshman and current captain Michael Clarke, flowing blonde locks—something Clarke was renowned for in his earlier years—aside. While Smith may not be quite as classy an operator, he digs in at vital moments for this team and there’s an unwavering focus to his play that makes him a tough man to dislodge.
Smith was assisted by a somewhat surprising companion during his surge, with fast bowler Mitchell Johnson tucking into some uninspired Indian bowling. His 88 from just 93 balls provided a great foil for the sturdy Smith’s metronomic scoring and Clarke paid tribute to what could be a hugely significant partnership between the pair:
The Aussie supporters will be hoping that this score from Johnson will help galvanise his bowling—which has been a little off colour in this series—in the second innings. And one man who certainly carried some momentum with the bat into his bowling display was Mitchell Starc.
Starc is a very underrated batsman and once again he proved his mettle by adding some crucial runs down the order for the Baggy Greens. His 52 from 59 balls represented a fourth half-century in Test cricket for Starc, and it helped Australia move into a comfortable lead against some tired Indian bowling.
He then went on to play a key role with the ball early in the second innings, something predicted by former India batsman Aakash Chopra:
After his glittering century in the first innings, Murali Vijay was the man the Aussies would have wanted to dislodge in their 23-over spell toward the end of the day. And Starc duly obliged, as he clean bowled the Indian opener for just 27.
Reeling from that dismissal, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara helped steady the ship and guided India to 71/1 at stumps, but it’ll be the hosts that take major impetus into Day 4.
Here’s how the Indian team finished up the day:
While the hosts are in the stronger position going into the penultimate day of this engrossing match, it’s imperative they find some cutting edge with the ball. Johnson, in particular, has struggled to capture his patented ferocity in this series and a return to his brutal best would stand Australia in great stead.
On the flip-side, if Dhawan and Pujara can set a positive precedent early in the day and stay together for the morning session, the hosts could easily be batted out of this game. In what’s a four-Test series it’s not imperative that MS Dhoni’s team win this match, but it’s vital they do not lose and hand Australia a sizeable lead.
With that in mind, caution could well be the order of the day for this Indian team on Day 4, as they look to establish a much-needed foothold in the series.