Smith, Starc take Australia to 408

Mohali, March 16 (IANS) Mitchell Starc top scored with a fine 99 and Steve Smith struck 92 as Australia were bowled out for 408 in the first innings shortly before lunch on the third day of the third cricket Test against India at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here Saturday.

India's opening batsmen Murali Vijay (3 not out) and debutant Shikhar Dhawan safely saw off the only over as the hosts took lunch at 3/0 in their first innings.

Dhawan should thank his stars as he could have been run out without a ball being faced. As Starc ran down for the first delivery, the ball slipped from his grip and the hit the stumps as Dhawan was short of crease. Australian captain Michael Clarke only had a laugh.

Earlier, resuming at 273 for seven, the morning session was perhaps the best for Australia as they scored 135 runs losing the last three wickets.

Overnight batsmen, Smith and Starc added 97 runs for the eight wicket enroute to their best scores in Test cricket.

Smith, who made a comeback in Test side after a little more than two years, impressed with the responsibilities he shouldered with the tailenders.

It was an aggressive innings by Smith and he hit 10 fours and a six in his 185-ball knock before falling eight short of what would have been his maiden Test ton.

Smith became Pragyan Ojha (2/98) second victim after he was stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Meanwhile, Starc rose above his potential of being tailender and batted with purpose. The fast bowler smacked 14 fours during his 144-ball stay.

He came close to becoming the first Australian No.9 to get to three figures, but unfortunately it was not to be. Ray Lindwall was the last Australian No.9 to have scored a century, against England at the MCG in 1947.

Starc and Nathan Lyon (9 not out) added valuable 41 runs for the ninth wicket that took Australia to the threshold of 400-run mark.

Having added 79 to his personal score in the morning session, Starc needed just one run to reach the milestone. But he slashed hard at Ishant Sharma (3/77) and it flew to Dhoni, who snapped up a good catch that also left Australia stranded at 399/9.

Xavier Doherty (5) became Ravichandran Ashwin's (2/97) second victim after he was trapped in front.