Steven Smith has scored a hundred on his debut Test as skipper © Getty Images
Steven Smith has scored a hundred on his debut Test as skipper © Getty Images

The ongoing second Test between India and Australia is turning into another thrilling contest as India are placed at 71 for one in their second essay with a deficit of 26 runs to clear. On Day Three, while India produced yet another hapless show with the ball, Australia fought back and positioned themselves from where they can actually call the shots. Devarchit Varma brings the highlights of the third day’s play.

India’s brilliance with the ball: India started off the day with an edge; Australia were behind by 187; apart from Steven Smith, they did not have in-form batsmen who promised stability in case of early wickets. Indian bowlers came out all guns blazing, especially Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron in their first spells. They bowled terrific line and length and at good pace, troubling the Australians. The rewards came their way soon as Ishant cleaned up Mitchell Marsh and Brad Haddin fell on an acute planning of short bowling. India did impress with their effort early on, but all of a sudden, things went awry.

And India suddenly hits a new low: The early wickets of Marsh and Haddin had certainly raised India’s hope of earning a big lead, but their persistence on bowling short to Mitchell Johnson went against them. Before India could realise, Johnson had swatted couple of boundaries and had knocked down India’s confidence. Soon the bowlers started to spray deliveries in the areas where Johnson liked; Johnson zipped past his captain. His attack was nothing short of brutal as he swayed his bat with utmost disdain — especially against anything pitched short short.

Indian bowlers’ performance certainly put the team in lot of pressure. If the batsmen flop on Day Four, the possibility of a huge defeat looms on the horizon. Had the bowlers managed to clean up the Australian tail cheaply, India would definitely have found themselves in a position of command by the end of the third day. Unfortunately, India continue to make the same mistakes and pay hefty prices.

Mitchell Johnson’s comeback: Coming into the series, Johnson was expected to slay Indian batsmen with his menacing bowling. However, he has been far away from his best, and there have been speculations whether the demise of Phillip Hughes and the ball that hit Virat Kohli on the crest might be preventing him from having a go at the Indians. However, Johnson looked a determined man to save his side from a slump with the bat. His aggressive ruthlessness that is usually on display when he has the ball was evident during his batting. The confidence that Johnson would have earned might be seen in his bowling on Day Four as well.

‘Soft’ Mitchell Starc makes India pay: There is no doubt about the fact that Shane Warne always speaks his mind. Warne had irked Alastair Cook to such an extent so that the England captain appealed to the media that something must be done about the comments that Warne has been dishing out. Warne was seen on damage-control mode after terming Mitchell Starc ‘soft’, when Starc walked back to the pavilion not being able to handle the Brisbane heat. It is yet not known what happened after Darren Lehmann objected on Warne’s comments, but Starc drew inspiration from the comments and took Australia from a position of trouble to one that of command. He batted extremely well, punishing Indians for their lack of planning and ability to put pressure on the tail-enders, and went onto score a run-a-ball half-century. Starc faced 59 balls and cracked six fours to score 52. The highlight of his innings was not only the speed at which the runs were scored, but with the deftness with which the he handled the Indian pacers and spinners alike. So much for Warne’s comments!

Steven Smith completes remarkable century: Smith’s contemporaries are probably getting jealous with the way things are turning up for him. Australia’s third youngest skipper created history once again on Friday when he became the youngest to score a Test century on captaincy debut. Smith batted fluently till he was cleaned up by Ishant, taking his series average to a whopping 374.

‘Monk’ Murali Vijay errs: Australia have found it tough to remove Murali Vijay throughout the series as he batted with tremendous application and concentration to register fifties on every innings he has batted in (including tour matches) since he has landed in Australia. He started off on a similar note on Friday, but a rare blip resulted in his dismissal. The ‘Monk’, as they call him these days, erred just a little bit and ended up giving Starc another opportunity to bounce back and shut the critics.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)