Melbourne: Steven Smith continued to haunt India as he compiled a career-high Test score of 192 runs to help Australia amass a mammoth 530 in the first innings and put his team on top after day two of the third Test ended with the visitors 108 for one, trailing by 422 runs, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here Saturday.
Australian stand-in captain’s knock landed India into an uncomfortable position of playing catch-up for the rest of the match. They were 108 for one at stumps with Murali Vijay (55 batting) and Cheteshwar Pujara (25 batting) at the crease.
Shikhar Dhawan (28) was the lone batsman dismissed by pacer Ryan Harris. Pujara was dropped on 12 by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin off Josh Hazlewood.
Smith’s centuries in Brisbane and here Saturday made him the first Australian to score two centuries in their first two Tests as captain.
The right-handed batsman’s imperious form saw him become only the 13th Australian to score centuries in three consecutive Tests.
He also crossed 500 runs in the four-Test series during his marathon knock, getting valuable support from Haddin (55), Mitchell Johnson (28) and Harris (74) at the MCG.
They were all aggressive with the bat with Harris hitting his highest Test score.
The Indian team again failed to polish off the tail that wagged resolutely to essentially bat the tourists out of the contest.
But it was Smith who was undoubtedly the star of the show, smashing his third consecutive century of the series with a knock studded by 15 boundaries and two sixes.
Australia resumed the day at 259 for five with the game in the balance and Smith on 72, accompanied by Haddin on 23.
And it was Haddin, overnight not out on 23, who came out with a more menacing mentality.
Aware that the Indians would target his perceived weakness against short-pitched bowling, he waited on the back-foot to counter the strategy.
Willing to pull and hook at the slightest provocation, he carted the short balls to all round the park for a form-finding half-century, cracking seven boundaries and a six on its way.
The Indians continued to feed Haddin despite seeing their plan becoming counter-productive.
Haddin perished much against the run of play, edging while trying to leave a Mohammed Shami delivery to give India a ray of hope at 326 for six.
But Smith quashed any such prospect by continuing to score freely. The Indians had neither any concrete plan nor any inspiration to stop the 25-year-old.
To make matters worse, they couldn’t dismiss the bowlers at the other end to minimise the damage.
Just like the Gabba Test, the Aussie tailenders hung around, setting up crucial partnerships with Smith. Initially they were circumspect, content only to defend but flashed their bat around when they grew confident.
Smith upped his scoring pace after the dismissal of Harris to guide Australia past the 500-run mark and was ultimately bowled trying to scoop an Umesh Yadav delivery towards fine leg.
Shami was the most successful bowler for the Indians, claiming four wickets for 138 runs from 29 overs. He was followed by Yadav and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, both taking three wickets each.
But all wickets claimed came at the cost of bleeding considerable amount of runs, with all four frontline bowlers giving away more than 100 runs each for their efforts.