Brisbane: India paid a big price for Rohit Sharma taunting Mitchell Johnson when he came to the wicket with the incensed paceman turning around the second Gabba Test with an explosive batting cameo.
The tourists lit the fuse with their sledging of Johnson and bowling short to him and two hours later were left lamenting a smoking knock from the ICC Cricketer of the Year.
Johnson came into bat with Australia shaky at 247 for six and still trailing India by 161 runs with four wickets left. He took to the bowlers, peeling off 88 runs off 93 balls with 13 fours and one six, and shared in a ground record 148 runs with skipper Steve Smith for the seventh wicket.
When Johnson left the ground the home side were 13 runs in arrears and headed for an innings lead of 97. Smith, who raised his second ton of the series with 133 off 191 balls, praised Johnson's contribution to the dramatic turnaround for the Australians. "He came out and was positive from ball one," Smith said. "
Mitchell Johnson (R) acknowledges the crowd after reaching his half-century as skipper Steve Smith looks on during the third day of the 2nd Test match between Australia and India at The Gabba in Brisbane on Friday. Pic/AFP
They tried to be quite aggressive with him bowling short and trying to get stuck into him and I think that played into his favour. "Mitch and Rohit (Sharma) were having a little bit of banter. "He took them on and they didn't really have a answer for him."
Johnson treated short-pitch balls with some aggressive pull shots for boundaries and clubbed off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for a mighty six over long-on. With Smith and Johnson leading the rearguard assault Australia's tail responded, putting on 258 for the last four wickets.
Mitchell Starc chipped in with 52 off 59 balls, Nathan Lyon hit 23 and Test debutant Josh Hazlewood cracked an unbeaten 32 to frustrate India's attempts. "At six for 240-odd it didn't look that way but the tail came out and batted beautifully," Smith said.
"Both Mitchs batted outstanding and Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood on debut were very good at the end. To get us over 500 with a lead of 97 put us in a very good position. "When your tail bats like that it's a nightmare for the opposition." Smith's hundred, his sixth in Tests, continued a golden patch for the new Australia skipper.
Smith was not dismissed in last week's Adelaide Test with knocks of 162 and 52 and it took India 704 minutes to finally get Smith's wicket over three innings. Smith, 25, who took over the captaincy after Michael Clarke injured his right hamstring in the first Adelaide Test, was the fifth Australian skipper to score a century in his first Test as captain.
"I said in the press conference before the Test match that I wanted to lead from the front with my performances, so hopefully I've done that so far in this game and hopefully it continues for me as well," he said.