India were trailing by 26 runs with nine wickets in hand at stumps on Day 3 in Brisbane after the Australian lower-order batted with determination to give their team a sizeable 97-run lead. The pacers got India off to a good start to leave the hosts on 247/6 in the morning, but Mitchell Johnson joined Steven Smith in changing the course of the innings. Propelled by the lower-order bat’s exploits the pair’s 148-run stand seized the advantage from the visitors. Building on the platform Mitchell Starc then led the home team to 505 before being bowled out. (Also See: HIGHLIGHTS: AUSTRALIA VS INDIA - 2nd TEST, DAY 3, The Gabba, Brisbane)
With their task cut for them, Murali Vijay opened the innings with Shikhar Dhawan in the last session at the Gabba. The openers steadily put together 41 runs until Starc bowling a tight line crashed Vijay’s woodwork.
With their man-in-form back in the dressing room, Cheteshwar Pujara joined the left-handed opener in chipping away at the deficit.
Playing circumspectly Dhawan (26*) and Pujara (15*) took India to stumps at 71/1 in an unbroken 30-run stand.
Earlier, the first hour belonged to India. Ishant Sharma tested the batsmen with a tight line on the off-stump and built up pressure with some assistance off the wicket. With Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav complimenting the tall pacer, India maintained the upperhand as they got off to a good start early on in the day.
Ishant gave the visitors their first breakthrough of the day. Mitchell Marsh left the delivery which came in and the ball clipped the top of the off-stump leaving the batsman clueless. The trio maintained a strangle hold on the innings and Aaron was the next to strike. An edgy Brad Haddin was done in by a bouncer. As the wicketkeeper batsman raised his arm to protect his face the ball deflected off to the short leg and Cheteshwar Pujara took the catch.
With the hosts in a precarious situation Johnson came to the crease and launched a counter attack to pull back the momentum from the visitors. He slammed Ishant Sharma twice to the boundary, down the leg side and through the mid-wicket to set the wheel in motion.
While Johnson unleashed himself on the bowlers Smith held one end and kept rotating the strike. Scoring at a quick pace the lower-order bat soon smashed Yadav for three fours in an over to enter the 40s. An over later he hit Aaron for three successive boundaries; the second of which powered down the ground took him to his 50 off just 37 balls.
Smith too took the opportunities that were presented as he lofted Ravichandran Ashwin over long-on for six. And at the stroke of lunch, Smith brought up his hundred with boundary past point off Aaron. But Johnson pulling, cutting and driving the ball was the highlight of the session which took Australia to 351/6. With a 104-run unbroken partnership scoring at over seven and a half runs per over the pair had taken the home team within 57 runs of India’s total of 408.
Although Ashwin kept a lid on the flow of runs the pair continued to close in on India’s lead in the second session. However, with Australia on 395, Ishant ended the flourishing stand for 148. Johnson edged the ball to the wicketkeeper and returned for 88. And Smith dragged the final ball of the over on to the stumps to depart for 133.
An over later Starc struck Ishant behind backward point and through mid-off to go past India with two consecutive boundaries. The lower-order batsman continued from where Johnson had left to extend the lead even as he got a reprieve.
Nathan Lyon too joined in adding useful runs to the lead. His cameo however ended for 23 with a hit straight to mid-on. With Australia nine wickets down, the tea break was delayed by half-an-hour while Starc and Josh Hazlewood strengthened the lead. The duo milked the Indian attack and Starc posted a fifty as they batted through the extended session. They took the team past 500 and had taken the lead to a whopping 95 runs in an unbroken stand when tea was eventually taken.
On the fourth ball of the last session with two runs added to the Australian total, India eventually ended the stand with Ashwin dislodging Starc’s bails.
End of Day 1: India 1st inn 311/4 in 83 overs (M Vijay 144, A Rahane 75*, R Sharma 26*, J Hazlewood 2/44)
End of Day 2: India 1st inn 408 all out in 109.4 overs (A Rahane 81, J Hazlewood 5/68, N Lyon 3/105); Australia 1st inn 221/4 in 52 overs (S Smith 65*, C Rogers 55, U Yadav 3/48)
End of Day 3: