BRISBANE: Steve Smith again proved the elusive wicket for India as the new captain fashioned an Australian fightback on day two of the second Test on Thursday.
Smith, who was not dismissed by India in last week’s Adelaide Test win with scores of 162 and 52, continued to be the bane of the tourists with another defiant knock. He has scored 279 so far in the series.
His intuitive stroke-making was again a delight and he danced down the wicket to club spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for two sixes over long-on in one over.
At the close, with a fierce electrical storm about to break, Australia were 221 for four in reply to India’s 408 with Smith unbeaten on 65 and Mitchell Marsh on seven.
“It’s not about Steve Smith or any names that we want to take out here, it’s going to be a couple of wickets that we want to take tomorrow morning, “Ashwin said of India’s chances.
“I think we are in front of the game at this point of time. Our 400 is enough if we can get a couple of wickets tomorrow morning then we’re right in front.”
The Australians lost the wickets of David Warner (29), Shane Watson (25), Chris Rogers (55) and Shaun Marsh (32) in the final two sessions.
Shaun Marsh, recalled as a replacement for injured skipper Michael Clarke, had registered six ducks in his previous 15 Test innings but Thursday looked to have overcome his series of poor starts.
He had a big let-off on 32 when Ajinkya Rahane put down a sitter at leg gully off Varun Aaron in the 45th over. But he was out two overs later, caught by Ashwin in the slips off Umesh Yadav on the same score.
Rogers missed a chance to post a much-needed big innings after a run of failures when he was out in the over before tea.
The 37-year-old left-hander dabbled at Yadav and gave a leg-side catch to keeper M.S. Dhoni.
It was a good middle session for India, who removed the dangerous Warner in the ninth over.
Warner, who scored twin centuries in the Adelaide series opener, attempted to pull Yadav only for the ball to come off the top of his bat and pop up for Ashwin to take a comfortable catch running back from slip.
Watson looked at ease before losing concentration on 25 and finding Shikhar Dhawan in the deep, giving off-spinner Ashwin his first wicket.
Debutant Josh Hazlewood captured five wickets and Brad Haddin equalled a wicketkeeping record as Australia dismissed India for 408 at lunch.
Paceman Hazlewood led the way with three scalps on the second morning as the Australians bounced back after Wednesday’s horror day in the field in sweltering conditions.
“Yesterday was a pretty tough slog out in the heat,” Hazlewood said.
“It wasn’t much cooler today but we all came out well and bowled to our plans and picked up the last six wickets for about where we wanted them.”
Haddin equalled the Australian record of six dismissals in an innings held by Wally Grout, Ian Healy and Rod Marsh with two more catches on the second morning.
The Australians began the day well with two wickets before Dhoni and Ashwin regained the initiative with a belligerent seventh-wicket stand.
The pair put on 57 in equal time before Ashwin became Hazlewood’s fourth wicket, playing away from his body and edging chest-high to Watson at slip for 35.
“I thought I batted at my best, after a long time I got a chance to bat in the middle so I batted really well and felt disappointed to have given my wicket away,” Ashwin said.
Dhoni cracked 33 off 53 balls with four fours before he fell to the Hazlewood-Haddin combination.
Hazlewood was far and away Australia’s best bowler with five for 68, while left-armer Mitchell Starc continued to struggle with his line and length and went wicketless for 83 runs.
Hazlewood struck early enticing an edge off Rahane for 81 with a late outswinger.
Smith pulled off a magnificent sprawling catch at second slip to dismiss Rohit Sharma for 32 off Watson in the 92nd over.
Starc, whose body language was labelled “soft” by Test great Shane Warne during his TV commentary on Wednesday, again proved ineffective.