Brisbane: Young Steven Smith struck a magnificent century on captaincy debut while Mitchell Johnson counter-attacked his way to a 53-ball 67 as Australia inched closer to India's first-innings total in the second cricket Test here on Friday.
Replying to India's 408 all out, the hosts were 351 for six at lunch on day three at the Gabba. Smith was unbeaten on 110 and Johnson was giving the stand-in captain company at the other end.
Smith faced 155 balls, hitting 11 fours and two 2 sixes, while a rampaging Johnson smashed 10 boundaries and a six as the duo put on a swashbuckling 104 runs off just 14.5 overs for the seventh wicket. The hosts now trail by only 57 runs.
On this day three morning, Smith (65*) and Mitchell Marsh (11) came out to bat with a purpose. The match hung in balance as Ishant Sharma (1-81) and Umesh Yadav (3-68) began proceedings for India. The visitors struck the first blow with Ishant bowling out the injured batsman as he left to leave an incoming delivery only to see his stumps disturbed.
While Smith stayed solid at the other end, Brad Haddin (6) was rattled as soon as he came to the crease. Ishant troubled him with full, incoming deliveries and had a couple good LBW shouts against the batsman. It was Varun Aaron (1-113) though who prized away the wicket as the keeper-batsman was forced to fend a quick short ball and lobbed a simple catch to Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg.
It brought Johnson and Smith together and first up the visiting side tried to get on the nerves of the left-arm pace bowler. It didn't work at all as he responded by unleashing an attacking array of strokes and the runs started flowing from his bat across all parts of the ground.
Johnson took a special liking towards Ishant and Aaron, taking 37 runs off only 19 balls faced from the two bowlers.
He also hit Yadav for 18 runs off as many balls, as the partnership raced to 50-runs in just 43 balls. The 300-run mark came up for Australia in the 69th over as Johnson proceeded to strike three boundaries in that Yadav over. He hit another three fours in the 71st over bowled by Aaron as he reached his 10th Test fifty off only 37 balls.