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 against India, a lead of 348 runs.
Smith made 71 off 70 balls and surpassed Bradman’s record of most runs in an Australia-India series, helping his team position itself for a likely overnight declaration and pursuit of victory on the last day at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Chris Rogers made 56 – his sixth consecutive half century – and Joe Burns smashed 66 off 39 balls, including three sixes, as Australia chased quick runs and fading light during the final session.
”It’s just nice to be contributing for Australia,” said Burns, who is playing his second test. ”You want to be contributing for the team on such a big occasion. It means a lot more to go out there and make 50 in both innings.
”But I want to come back tomorrow and win the test match for Australia – that’s what we would be after first and foremost.”
Burns and Brad Haddin (31 not out) combined for a rapid 86-run partnership from 8.4 overs to stretch the lead beyond the highest successful fourth-innings run chase at the SCG – that is 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 in Melbourne where stand-in skipper Smith was criticized by some for batting on too long.
”The wicket spun and I think it will only get harder to bat on as the game goes on,” Burns said. ”It’s a great position for Australia to be in at the end of day four.
”We’ll come out tomorrow and I’m sure we’re going to create 10 opportunities. It’s just a case of taking all 10.”
India’s attack was led by Ravi Ashwin (4-105), who used his guile to produce false strokes from an Australian top order aiming 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) played onto his stumps trying to cut Ashwin, who also dismissed Shaun Marsh (1).
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 here, 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 Lokesh Rahul (110) were supplemented by some big hitting in the tail from Ashwin (50) and Bhuvneshwar (30).
”I wanted to bat as deep as possible and put it into as many holes as possible and make sure that if any team won, it was India,” said Ashwin.
”But fortunately or unfortunately, the game is very well poised now, you don’t know which way it’s going to go.”
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.
Mitchell Starc removed Ashwin to return 3-106 and Harris (2-96) dismissed Umesh Yadav (4) to end the innings.
Australia has an unassailable 2-0 series lead, and regained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, with two wins and a draw in the first three tests.