Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja scored half-centuries to crush a defiant West Indies fightback, pushing Australia’s lead to an imposing 459 runs at the close of day three of the second Test on Monday.
The pair’s composed 79-run stand tempered the West Indies’ cheer after their bowlers took early wickets in the wake of some doughty tail-end batting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
After Khawaja’s dismissal for 56, Smith and Mitchell Marsh guided Australia to 179 for three at stumps in glorious sunshine. Skipper Smith was unbeaten on 70 with all-rounder Marsh on 18.
Replying to Australia’s mammoth first innings declaration at 551-3, West Indies were bowled out for 271 on the stroke of tea, but not without frustrating the Australian bowlers for the first two sessions.
After resuming the day on 91-6, debutant fast bowler Carlos Brathwaite rode his luck to make a rousing 59 on debut, with Darren Bravo anchoring the tail with a patient 81.
Although trailing by 280 runs, the West Indies bowlers took heart from the defiant rearguard action and captain Jason Holder had opener Joe Burns caught in the slips for four.
After engaging in some heated exchanges with opener David Warner, Holder caught the pint-sized vice captain for 17 in the gully to give Brathwaite his first Test wicket and reduce the Australians to 46-2.
Brathwaite’s celebrations bowled his captain over but Khawaja, one of four first innings centurions for Australia, teamed up with Smith to put down the minor insurrection before he was caught behind attempting an audacious ramp shot.
It was a memorable day for Brathwaite, who was dismissed twice by paceman James Pattinson but reprieved by the television umpire.
He was bowled attempting an ugly heave on 13, then caught at long leg for 50, but was called back when replays showed Pattinson had over-stepped the crease on both occasions.
Australia are bidding to wrap up the series 2-0 with victory in Melbourne after winning the opener in Hobart.