Steve Smith’s Aussie tail a wags to riches story
THE second Test at the Gabba moves into a pivotal fourth day today - a day that could go a long way to deciding the entire four-match series.
Australia, up 1-0 in the battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, showed impressive rearguard action to plunder 258 runs for the last four wickets and make 505 all-out in reply to India's first innings of 408.
Shikhar Dhawan (26 not out) and Cheteshwar Pujara (15 not out) survived an aggressive final session of play to help their team reach 1-71 - 26 runs behind - in its second dig.
Mitchell Starc, labelled "soft" by Aussie legend Shane Warne at the start of the Test, took the only wicket - that of first-innings centurion Murali Vijay for 27.
Earlier, some bold middle-to-lower-order batting gave Australia its healthy first-innings lead, after the hosts lost the early wickets of Mitch Marsh (11) and Brad Haddin (six) to be struggling at 6-247.
But, along with stand-in skipper Steve Smith, No.8 left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson came to the rescue with the bat, belting 88 off 93 deliveries. He smashed 13 fours and a six, before falling caught behind to Ishant Sharma. Smith continued his outstanding series with a swashbuckling 133.
Johnson has been labelled a "confidence player" in the past - when he bats well, he bowls well.
And maybe this innings could be the tonic for him to find his aggression with the ball which we have not yet seen this season, after he dismantled England in the Ashes last summer.
The Indians have taken to the big express paceman so far in their second innings though, Johnson going for 0-29 off eight overs.
With the bat, Smith blended the perfect combination of attack and defence, hitting 13 fours and two sixes.
Headed by Johnson, the Aussie tail certainly wagged and assisted Smith, causing India plenty of heartache, with Mitchell Starc (52 off 59 balls), Nathan Lyon (23 off 23) and Josh Hazlewood (32 off 50) adding to the carnage.
If Johnson's innings was a game-turner, Smith's was a classic captain's knock.
The 25-year-old New South Welshman survived a close LBW call on 95 to spinner Ravi Ashwin. Then on 97 he was lucky not to edge onto his stumps.
Outside of that, he was brilliant in his first innings as captain, leading the team at the crease with aplomb in Michael Clarke's absence.
Smith's confidence in his men to push ahead of India's first-innings score never wavered, despite resuming the day at 4-221, still 187 runs in arrears.
"That was always the plan (to bat aggressively). We said in the morning that we wanted a few big partnerships and we managed to do that," he said.
"That's all you need to do on this kind of wicket. If you get yourself in it's one of the best places to bat in the world.
"Credit to our tail, the way they played and took the bowlers on. It was fantastic."