Test evenly poised after Smith’s heroics

Indian batsman Shikhar Dhawan.


Indian batsman Shikhar Dhawan.
Indian batsman Shikhar Dhawan.

Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson’s whirlwind partnership propelled Australia to a first innings score 505 runs, a lead of 97, but India made a solid start to their second innings, reaching 71 for one to trail by only 26 at stumps on day three of the second Test at the Gabba here.

At stumps, India’s opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara were at the crease, on 26 and 15 respectively. First innings centurion Murali Vijay (27) was the Indian batsman to be dismissed.

Australia, though, will be happier of the two teams having fought back brilliantly from a precarious position to help themselves to a handy first innings lead.

Indian bowler’s ineptness at dismissing the tailenders once again cost them dear as Australia reached 505 from an uncomfortable position of 247 for six.

India have the worst average in Test cricket of giving away runs to tailenders. The visitors have given away 84 runs on an average to take the eighth, ninth and 10th wickets. Aned Friday’s performance gives credence to the fact.

Captain Steven Smith (133) and Mitchell Johnson (88) put together 148 runs for the seventh wicket as Australia smashed 282 runs in the first two sessions of play. To add to India’s woes No.8 batsman Mitchell Starc struck 52.

Starc combined first with Nathan Lyon (23) to add 56 runs for the ninth wicket and then with debutant Josh Hazlewood (not out 32) for a 51-run stand for the final wicket.

Pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav took three wickets each while Varun Aaron and Ravichandran Ashwin shared four wickets among them.

Smith and Johnson, who counter-attacked with great fervour, though, laid the foundation of the fightback.

They carried on from where they left off at lunch and continued to be aggressive.

It finally took an Ishant over to get rid of the two. The Indian pacer first got Johnson with a wide and full delivery and then castled Smith with an sharp in-swinger.

Earlier, a blistering unbeaten 104-run partnership between captain Smith and Johnson took Australia to 351 for six at lunch.

The hosts seemed to be in a spot of bother when overnight batsman Mitchell Marsh (11) and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (6) were dismissed early in the session, where they scored 130 runs.

India began the session brightly. The visitors began with discipline, attacking the channel outside off, and were rewarded with two early wickets.

Ishant clean bowled Mitchell Marsh and then Varun removed vice-captain Haddin with a perfectly executed bouncer.

However, India switched their plan and bowled short deliveries indiscriminately and Johnson feasted on them to run away to a 37-ball half-century. The error in judgement proved costly as Johnson got much-needed confidence to put together a vital 148-run partnership with Smith that nullified India’s eraly supremacy and put the home team in a strong position.

Smith moved to his second century of the four-match series as well, as India’s 187-run lead at the start of the day shrunk to 57. From them on Australia didn’t falter.

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