One run was all that separated Mitchell Starc from becoming the first number nine Australian batsman to notch up a century in India, as the visitors posted a competitive 408 all out in the third and penultimate Test here today.
Though he missed out on the hundred by a whisker, Starc, along with Steven Smith (92), did enough to frustrate the Indians, helping Australia add 135 runs in the first session of play before Ravichandran Ashwin trapped last-man Xavier Doherty (5).
The Indians scored three runs from the one over they faced before lunch with Murali Vijay scoring all of them and Shikhar Dhawan yet to open his account.
Starc was caught-behind on 99 by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Ishant Sharma, which also dashed his hopes of becoming the first Australian in 66 years to score a century while batting at number nine.
Another record tumbled on the day was Starc and Steven Smith’s 97-run association for the eighth wicket which surpassed the previous best of 73 between Shane Watson and Brett Lee for this wicket at this ground. Starc was the more aggressive of the two.
Starc smashed 14 fours and faced 144 balls during his 146-minute stay at the crease. The 23-year-old left-hander from New South Wales was equal to the task whether it was about facing pacers or the spinners.
Making a sort of a lucky comeback to the Test squad after more than two years in wilderness, Smith made it count with a career-best score that included 10 boundaries and a six. He occupied the crease for 235 minutes and faced 185 balls.
A well-deserved century in sight, Smith became a victim of a viciously turning delivery from Pragyan Ojha and an equally good work by Indian skipper Dhoni, who stumped the batsman in a flash.
India heaved a sigh of relief, but Australia ensured they consolidate their position with another half-century partnership, for the ninth wicket between Starc and Nathan Lyon, with the former firmly in control of the proceedings.
During the course of their innings, both the batsmen had surpassed their previous best Test scores.
While Smith’s previous best effort — 77 — had come against Pakistan at Leeds, Starc’s top score prior to this match was 68 against South Africa in Perth last year.
The two joined forces after pacer Peter Siddle was trapped in front by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja with Australia at 251 for seven last evening.
Not just they added important runs, but did so at a fairly quick rate while keeping the Indian bowlers at bay.
Dhoni rotated his bowlers, but Smith and Starc scored runs at a good pace.
Resuming at 273 for seven, both Smith and Starc were at ease while dealing with the ball, which was 104 overs old at the start of the day’s play.
Starc made his intentions clear by pulling Ishant Sharma and then flicked Ashwin for another boundary.
After surviving a close lbw shout by Ishant, Smith got into the act driving him through the offside for his first authoritative shot of the day. Starc, meanwhile, played Ishant straight over his head and the ball sped to the fence in one bounce.
The new ball was taken after 108 overs, but it was not the quicker bowlers, but a spinner who gave India the first breakthrough of the day.
Having replaced Aswhin from the pavilion end, Ojha got one to turn and bounce sharply, and Dhoni completed a smart stumping with Smith’s back foot on the line.
For India, Ishnat and Ravindra Jadeja finished with three wickets each, while Ashwin and Ojha had two apiece.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 (Mitchell Starc 99, Steven Smith 92, Ed Cowan 86, David Warner 71; Ishant Sharma 3 for 72, Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 77) lead India 3 for no loss (Murali Vijay 3*) by 405 runs.