Smith, Burns help Australia push lead to 348 runs
Steve Smith scored a half-century and passed one of Don Bradman’s milestones on Friday as he led Australia to 251-6 in its second innings after four days of the fourth test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, 348 runs ahead of India.
Smith made 71 off 70 balls and surpassed Bradman’s record of most runs in an Australia-India series as the hosts positioned themselves for a likely overnight declaration and pursuit of victory on day five.Chris Rogers made 56 — his sixth straight half century — and Joe Burns smashed 66 off 39 balls, including three sixes as Australia chased quick runs.
Burns and Brad Haddin (31 not out) combined for a rapid 86-run partnership to stretch the lead beyond the highest successful fourth-innings run chase at the SCG of 288, achieved by Australia against South Africa in 2006.
That record, the difficulty of batting last on Sydney’s turning pitches, and the safety of already having the series secured meant an overnight declaration was expected, unlike in the previous drawn test where stand-in skipper Smith was criticized by some for batting on too long.
India’s attack was led by Ravi Ashwin (4-105), who used his guile to produce false strokes from an Australian top order looking to score off every ball.
Ashwin, who was given the new ball, struck in the second over when David Warner (4) was caught by Murali Vijay at slip.
Shane Watson (16) then played onto his own stumps trying to cut an Ashwin delivery. The 55-test allrounder has not hit a century in 14 innings.
Ashwin also claimed the wicket of Shaun Marsh (1) caught by Vijay.
Rogers’ 56 came off 72 balls before holing out to Suresh Raina off Kumar Bhuvneshwar.
Smith fell lbw to Mohammad Shami after moving his series aggregate to 769 runs — with four hundreds and two half-centuries — in one match less than Bradman’s 715 runs in five tests in 1947-48.
In the first innings Smith’s 110 matched the feats of Bradman (vs. South Africa in 1931-32) and South Africa great Jacques Kallis (vs. West Indies in 2003-04) in scoring four hundreds in four consecutive tests of a series.
Earlier, India added 130 runs to its overnight total of 342-5, reducing the first-innings deficit to 97 runs.
The third-day centuries of captain Virat Kohli (147) and second-gamer Lokesh Rahul (110) were supplemented by some big hitting in the tail with Ashwin hitting a half century and Bhuvneshwar making 30.
Kohli added just seven runs to his overnight score before he clipped a Ryan Harris (1-71) delivery straight to Rogers at midwicket.
The new India captain belted 20 boundaries in his 230 ball knock to take his run total for the series to 646, bettering Rahul Dravid’s previous record of 617 in 2003-04 for the most runs by an Indian batsman in a series in Australia.
Wriddhiman Saha (35) was other batsman dismissed in the morning session, gloving a short ball from Josh Hazlewood (1-64) to Smith at slip.
Ashwin and Kumar added 65 for the eighth wicket — helped by a dropped chance by Burns at bat-pad — before Kumar edged Nathan Lyon (2-123) to Watson at first slip for 30.
Mitchell Starc (3-106) removed Ashwin and Harris (2-96) dismissed Umesh Yadav (4), both caught behind, to end the innings.
It is the first time both teams have surpassed 400 runs in the first innings of each test in a minimum three-test series.
The hosts have an unassailable 2-0 series lead, and regained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, with two wins and a draw in the first three tests.