India were trailing by 422 runs in the first innings with nine wickets in hand at stumps on Day 2 in reply to Australia’s 530 runs. Steven Smith marched Australia to a commanding position with an authoritative 192-run knock. While he had watchfully built the innings to steer Australia to a comfortable position yesterday, Smith changed gears on the second day and plundered the Indian bowling attack. Complemented by the lower-order, Australia’s stand-in captain backed India into the corner. (Also See: HIGHLIGHTS: AUSTRALIA VS INDIA - 3rd TEST, DAY 2, Melbourne)
Once again in the series, Murali Vijay (55*) led India's response and had guided the visitors to 108/1 at stumps. The opener was ably complemented by Cheteshwar Pujara who was batting on 25 at the other end when play ended for the day.
Opening the innings with Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay struck Mitchell Johnson to the ropes down the ground in the third over to set the tone of the innings. Although tested by the Johnson-led attack, the India openers kept the flow of runs steady. However, after bringing up India’s 50 with four behind point; Dhawan edged Harris to Smith in slips and departed in the next.
The wicket brought down the run-rate a notch as Cheteshwar Pujara joined Vijay in negotiating the Australian attack. Smith rotated his bowling resources to keep the batsmen in check. The pair grafted runs as they carried the innings ahead. While on 12, Pujara was let off by Brad Haddin behind the stumps.
Vijay anchored the innings and brought up his fifty while Pujara patiently held up his end as they saw the rest of the session through.
Earlier the Indian tactic of bowling short backfired as the Australians dismissed the short-pitched ball to fence on most occasions. Unable to find their line and length the pacers leaked runs. Once they had gained momentum there was no looking back for Australia as the Smith-led line-up charged forward. With Haddin too finding his groove the pair pulled and drove the Indian pacers around the park as they amassed runs at a brisker pace.
Smith who had come out all guns blazing flicked the ball down the leg side to bring up his century as he cruised ahead. With his third century in three games, the stand-in Australian captain went past 500 runs in the series. However, later in the same over the sixth wicket partnership ended for 110. Haddin nicked Shami to the wicketkeeper and departed for 55.
Mitchell Johnson who then came out to the middle, too swung his bat around. He scored a quick 28 with five boundaries in a 50-run stand with Smith before returning to the dressing room. Looking for another hit over the top he came down the track to Ravichandran Ashwin and was stumped.
Harris then joined Smith in taking Australia to Lunch at 389/7. With a whopping 130 off 25 overs at the cost of two wickets the hosts had dominated in the morning and continued in the same vein in the next.
After a circumspect start to the second session the home team again started milking the Indian attack. Harris took the team past 400 with a boundary over mid-on off Yadav. The lower-order bat put up a skillful batting display as they added to the already big pile of runs.
Gaining in confidence Harris took the attack to Ashwin who had thus far been the most miserly of the Indian bowling attack. In one over he drove and cut the off-spinner to the fence to collect 12 runs off him to come within four runs short of a half-century. Scoring at a steady pace Smith too inched towards the 150-run mark.
With a single to square-leg off Ashwin, Harris reached his 50 off 75 balls. Later in the over he took Australia past 450 half-way through the session. The bowlers were at sea as they searched for a breakthrough. Soon Smith reached 150 with a single to deep square-leg and the partnership’s hundred-run mark followed. Harris continued to display his full array of shots as the pair accelerated. Harris whacked Ashwin for six but was out lbw while looking to sweep the next ball and missing it.
In the spinner’s next over Smith launched him over long-on as he propelled Australia towards 500. He then cut Yadav through backward point to get to the mark. Smith’s onslaught over Ashwin continued as he claimed three boundaries to inch towards a double-ton. Nathan Lyon too smacked Shami for a couple of boundaries before finding his bail dislodged by the pacer.
In the next over, Smith’s magnificent knock ended eight runs short of the 200-run mark in an effort to add a few more quick runs. Exposing his stumps while looking for big hit, he lost his middle-stump to Yadav and walked back to a standing ovation at the stroke of tea.
Debut: KL Rahul for India and Joe Burns for Australia
End of Day 1: Australia 1st inn 259/5 in 90 overs (S Smith 72*, C Rogers 57, S Watson 52, M Shami 2/55, U Yadav 2/69)
End of Day 2: