Smith century puts Australia in command

Smith century puts Australia in command
Captain Steve Smith cracked his third successive century with a heroic 192 as Indian bowlers put up a poor show to allow Australia post a mammoth first innings total of 530 and gain control of the third cricket Test here today.

Resuming the day on 259 for five, Smith led from the front to notch up his seventh Test ton and put on a 110-run sixth wicket partnership with Brad Haddin (55) to demoralise the Indians on the second day.

Like in the previous matches, the Australian tailenders added valuable runs to expose the Indian bowling attack which has found it difficult to clean up the tail.

India responded well to Australia's huge first innings total by reaching 108 for one at close on the second day with Murali Vijay (55) and Cheteshwar Pujara (25) at the crease. India are still trailing by 422 runs.

If Smith mixed the right dose of caution and aggression in his 305-ball stay, hitting 15 fours and 2 sixes in his career-best knock, then Haddin, his innings laced with 7 fours and a six, made sure that the hosts score at a quick rate in the morning session.

New-ball bowlers Ishant Sharma (0-104) and Umesh Yadav (3-130) made no impression in the first hour of play as the Australians made merry on a good Melbourne wicket much to the delight of the home crowd.

Mohammed Shami (4-138), who had been bleeding runs till now, finally got Haddin caught behind but India's troubles were far from over as the ever-resilient Mitchell Johnson (28) also did his bit with the bat.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's (3-134) entry brought some respite to India's condition as the visitors managed to check the flow of runs and get the dangerous Johnson back in the pavilion.

In the second session, Smith changed gears and found the perfect partner in Harris as the duo stitched together a 106-run eight-wicket partnership to double-up the scoring rate.

Harris, who notched up his third test fifty was finally trapped lbw off Ashwin but Smith coontinued to smack the bowlers all around the park as the hosts managed a scoring-rate of over five throughout the day's play.

Medium-pacer Harris took the only wicket of the Indian innings so far when he got Shikhar Dhawan (28) to induce an outside which was well taken by Smith at second slip.

The Murali-Pujara duo rebuilt the innings with an unbeaten 53-run stand but trailing the four-match series 0-2, India sure have a mountain to climb on the third day's play in a must-win game.

Vijay and Dhawan (28 runs, 51 balls, 3 fours) opened the innings after an early tea-break given that the Australian innings had finished just close to the end of the second session.

They had 37 overs to fend off then and they started in solid fashion with the pitch optimum to bat on. But the bowling attack did what the Indian bowlers did not do earlier and that is stick to a proper line and length and not bowl too short.

Runs were not easy to come by even though Vijay got a quick start with two fours off Johnson (0-24) in the fifth over. Dhawan waited around a bit before he too opened up and struck two fours in the 14th over off Shane Watson (0-14). Those boundaries brought up the 50-run partnership for the opening wicket, the duo's only second-such stand.

In the very next over though, Dhawan departed and Pujara then walked out to bat. Pujara though was lucky to be still batting at close of play as Brad Haddin dropped him in the 27th over off Hazlewood (0-19). He was batting on 12 at that time.

Before stumps, Vijay got to his 9th Test fifty in the 34th over, getting there off 93 balls and in the next over as India's 100-mark came up.

Earlier, Australia hammered India in the first two sessions of the day with skipper Smith scoring a career-best 192 as the visitors let slip any pressure built on day one and completely surrendered to the batting display.

For India, Ashwin was the best bowler on display, bowling with control throughout the innings. Shami took the most wickets, but he gave away too many runs - smacked for 23 fours, 13 more than any other bowler. Ishant and Yadav were also unimpressive on this day.

Post-lunch, Smith (128 not out) looked to get some quick runs with Harris. India meanwhile looked on auto-mode, waiting for things to happen and almost reluctant to get the batsmen out.

All their front-line bowlers conceded more than 100 runs, a fact cheered by much gusto by the MCG crowd. Smith meanwhile continued to motor along, getting to the 150-run mark for the second time in this series, reaching there in the 133rd over. He stepped up the run-rate thereafter, scoring his next 42 runs off only 32 balls.

Harris was out lbw to Ashwin in the 136th over of the innings and thereafter Smith added a quick-fire 48 runs for the 9th wicket with Nathan Lyon (11), who threw his bat around.

They were then both bowled by Shami in successive overs, 142nd and 144th, as the hapless Indian bowling and fielding effort on day two came to an end.

In the morning session, the hosts broke through India's resistance on day one and marched ahead in the morning session as Smith struck his seventh Test century.

The Indian bowlers would have looked to maintain their consistency from day one but they erred on their line and length, resorting to short-ball tactic almost immediately.

Haddin made full use of the same as he raced to his half-century off 75 balls, scoring 29 runs off 25 balls in the morning's play.

The score also sped as a result as the first 9 overs cost India 52 runs. The 50-run partnership for the 6th wicket came up in the 92nd over and then Haddin's 18th Test fifty came up three overs later.

At the other Smith remained solid as ever, bringing up 2000 career runs playing in his 25th Test. A little later Australia crossed the 300-mark in the 97th over and three overs later their 100-run partnership came up.

Following up his scores of 162 not out at Adelaide and 133 at Brisbane, Smith brought up his ton in the 101st over of the innings then.

He got to the milestone off 191 balls, and in doing so, emulated Vijay Hazare, Jackie McGlew, Sunil Gavaskar and Alastair Cook as the ones to score hundreds in their first two Tests as captain.

In that same over, against the run of play, Haddin was out caught behind edging a delivery he looked to leave off Shami. But this didn't bring any respite to the Indians as Johnson (28 runs, 37 balls, 5 fours) came to the crease.

The field was spread once again and similar tactics as in Brisbane were resorted to as the left-hander sped off. In fact Australia maintained a run-rate of more than five-per-over through this morning session, scoring 130 runs in just 25 overs.

Ashwin was introduced late into the attack, and just as on day one, he was able to apply some brakes. He also managed to get Johnson out stumped in the 112th over but Harris stayed with his skipper until the break.

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