Steve Smith has left cricket fans and commentators in disbelief after an extraordinary catch to help put Australia in the box seat in the third Test against India. Nathan Lyon took eight wickets on Thursday as Australia bowled India out for 163 in their second innings, leaving the tourists 76 for victory.
However Australia's target could have been much larger if not for the heroics of Smith. Cheteshwar Pujara threatened to take India's total upwards of 200 as he frustrated the Aussies, but was finally undone by a brilliant catch and piece of captaincy from Smith on 59.
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Standing in for the absent Pat Cummins, the Aussie captain placed himself at leg-slip while Pujara was batting due to the spin Lyon was producing. Sure enough, Pujara flicked one straight towards Smith not long after, with the Aussie captain pulling off an insane one-handed reflex catch to his right after his initial movement was to his left.
"What a catch. That's an absolute blinder if ever there was one," Ravi Shastri said in commentary. "It needed something spectacular to get rid of Pujara."
Pujara's dismissal proved a huge turning point in the match after he was dropped by Marnus Labuschagne on 51. The Indian talisman looked like pushing Australia's victory target much higher, and would have done so if he'd stayed at the crease.
However his dismissal helped the Aussies wrap up the Indian innings in the final over of the day, setting themselves just 76 for victory to reduce the series margin to 2-1. Smith's outstanding catch won widespread praise around the cricket world.
Some described it as 'incredible' and 'insane', while others suggested it was one of the greatest slips catches of all time.
Oh goodness! That’s a stunner by Steve Smith. Huge, huge moment in the game. #INDvAUS
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) March 2, 2023
Incredible! One of the greatest slips catches of all time.
— Mark (@turvin8a1) March 2, 2023
— MARD (@HemulPatel) March 2, 2023
Unbelievable catch. Steve Smith is 33 and yet he's got the reflexes of a 20-year-old. Notice how he went down the wrong line initially before holding on to what could easily be called an all time great leg-slip catch. Outstanding work. https://t.co/7dgcTZxuYZ
— Humayoun Ahmed Khan (@HumayounAK) March 2, 2023
Damn.. what a catch by Steve Smith 😶
— Trendulkar (@Trendulkar) March 2, 2023
— CricBlog ✍ (@cric_blog) March 2, 2023
— Will Taylor (@wlctaylorr) March 2, 2023
Nathan Lyon stars on day two of third Test
Lyon finished with 8-64 to claim the fourth 10-wicket haul of his Test career. He picked up 3-35 in the first innings in Indore.
It also marked Lyon's 23rd five-wicket haul, backing up the 5-67 he took during the second Test in Delhi when he bowled arguably the best he had in his 118-match career. A win in the third Test would be a famous victory if Australia manages to chase down the runs after they were humiliated in Nagpur and Delhi, falling 0-2 behind in the series.
"I'm just really proud of the way we've gone about it," Lyon said. "Personal success is great to have but after Delhi we had a couple of really good days off as a team, and really good conversations at training.
"I'm more really proud of the way we've gone about it as a collective group. Certainly it's up there as one of my career highlights, but I'm more proud about our group."
Australia suffered another batting collapse on the morning of day two, losing 6-11 in 35 minutes to be all out for 197 when it looked like they were destined for a much bigger score. After starting the day with a lead of 47 and six wickets still in hand, the tourists' batting capitulated for the third-straight match to leave the door open for India.
However Lyon's heroics ensured the Aussies' victory target was less than the tricky 100-run figure. Nevertheless, 76 will still make for a nervous chase on a pitch that is deteriorating rapidly and producing plenty of spin and uneven bounce.
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