Steven Smith roared to his fourth century in four Test matches of the series and Australia to their fourth consecutive first innings total of over 500 as India wilted under the heat in Sydney.
That massive day one score – 348/2 -- put Australia in a position to post a huge first innings total on Wednesday, especially with that unstoppable skipper of theirs Smith at the crease.
Shane Watson was eyeing a century of his own as well, and even if he fell short, it did not stop Australia from pulling away from India by some distance. Australia declared their first innings on 572/7 in 152.3 overs, with Shaun Marsh (73, 116b, 9x4, 1x6) and Joe Burns (58., 114b, 10x4) picking up from where their top four batsmen had left off to wear those already weary Indian bowlers out further.
In reply, India made the worst possible start, losing one of their best batsmen of the series – Murali Vijay – in the first over, before KL Rahul (31, 71b, 2x4), desperate to make up for that awful Test debut, and Rohit Sharma (40, 76b, 3x4, 2x6), equally keen on proving he belongs in Test cricket, saw off the day to take India to 71 for one in 25 overs at stumps.
India's first innings began horribly with Vijay (0,3b), usually so adept at leaving balls outside off stump, chasing a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc (6-2-17-1) and only managing to edge it to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin in the third ball of the first over.
That put all the pressure on the already under pressure duo of Rahul and Rohit, and after a few nervy moments, particularly off the bowling of Starc, who did a really good Mitchell Johnson impression, the two right-handers settled in to ensure no more wickets would go Australia's way on Day 2.
The Australia innings might have been a lot different had India stopped showing that amazingly consistent ability to drop catches.
It is becoming almost impossible to count even for a computer – an exaggeration of course – the amount of catches India have dropped of late, be that in this series in Australia or the one in England. After spilling a couple on day one, there were two more that went down on day two morning, with Wriddhiman Saha dropping one off Smith, albeit a tad difficult, and Vijay then grassing Marsh, which proved to be a lot more costly, at a time when Australia were under a little – little being the operative word – bit of pressure after losing Smith and Watson.
Watson (81, 183, 7x4) fell 19 runs short of a hundred, to ensure those questions of him being unable to convert his starts into big scores would remain pertinent, pulling a long-hop from Mohammed Shami straight down the throat of R Ashwin at midwicket.
Australia had gone onto 400 at that point, with Smith (117, 208b, 15x4) easing to his hundred and a 196-run partnership with Watson in the process. Smith had the most easiest of deliveries gifted to him, by Umesh Yadav, to get to his century – a juicy full toss on middle and leg which the skipper gleefully accepted and pummelled to the boundary before looking up to the skies in celebration.
However, once that Watson wicket fell, with Marsh, still playing for his place and looking for another substantial score, Smith felt the need to score most of the runs, and that ball outside off stump – why on earth India can't bowl that all the time is beyond everyone – did the trick again with Yadav inducing an outside edge which Saha gobbled up easily enough.
That Smith wicket put Australia on 415 for four and it should have been 415/5, but Vijay dropped a catch at second slip after R Ashwin, finding spin and bounce, but not enough wickets, found the outside edge of Marsh.
India bowled pretty well to close out the first session, but Marsh and Burns came out in positive mood in the second session, with the former in particular making the away team pay for that drop.
Marsh, playing those shots which makes him such a delightful batsman to watch in limited-overs cricket, zoomed to his half-century, before Burns, the more circumspect partner, cut loose towards the end of the post-Lunch session to crack his maiden half-ton as well.
With Australia going past 500 for the fourth straight time in their first innings of this series, India could only go through the motions and wait for that declaration, even if Shami (28.3-3-112-5) picked up Marsh late in the second session.
Ryan Harris (25, 9b, 5x4) came in, after Joe Burns holed out, and clonked a little before Smith finally said he had had enough about 18 minutes into the final session to end the Indian bowlers' misery.