Nathan Lyon has hailed teammate Steve Smith after the acting Australia captain pulled off a classic, and potentially match-defining, catch against India.

Smith has had troubles with a degenerative back issue, putting down a number of catches in slips during this series, but he managed a spectacular effort late on day two of the third Test in Indore on Thursday.

The catch removed the stoic Cheteshwar Pujara, who averages over 50 against Australia, when the veteran number three appeared to be pushing India towards a handy lead.

Pujara’s dismissal for 59 led to India’s second innings ending sooner than the hosts had hoped,  setting Australia a small, but tricky, chase of 76 on a deteriorating pitch at Holkar Stadium.

Lyon, who took 8-64 to become the leading wicket-taker in Border-Gavaskar Trophy history, praised Smith’s effort at leg slip as “massive”.

“This is no disrespect to anyone else in that changing room, but I don’t think anyone else is catching it,” Lyon said.

“That’s just me bowling from one end and looking up and seeing Steve Smith at slip or leg slip and having that confidence as a bowler.

Australia fielder Steve Smith hits the ground after taking a catch to remove India's Cheteshwar Pujara, who's looking back.
Pujara was the third-last wicket to fall in India’s innings.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

“Yes, he has dropped a couple here and there, but I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.

“It shows the quality of cricketer he is that we see at training the different methods he is coming up with to try and get better and try and improve.

“This is someone who has played 95 Test matches.

“Hats off to Smithy, he did all the work. I’m not surprised, but it was a massive moment to finish off the day strongly.”

Australia fielders Steve Smith and Alex Carey celebrate removing India's Cheteshwar Pujara, who looks sad in the foreground.
Pujara had been at the crease for 50 overs when Smith pulled off his piece of brilliance.(AP: Surjeet Yadav)

Smith has stepped in as skipper for the third time since Pat Cummins became Test captain in November 2021.

Cummins returned home to Sydney after the second Test defeat in Delhi to be with his seriously ill mother Maria, who is in palliative care.

Cummins, Australia’s first bowling captain in decades, was criticised through the first two matches of the series by former players and on social media.

Smith’s return to the captaincy has prompted a flood of praise on social media for the man who averaged 70 in 34 Tests as skipper until the ball-tampering saga ended his time in charge in March 2018.

“I thought Pat skippered the game really well last week,” Lyon said.

“We had really good plans under both of them [Cummins and Smith] and that’s where Australian cricket is in good hands with one of the best bowlers in the world and one of the best batters in the world being our two leaders.”

Lyon would be within his rights to count himself as one of the best in the world as well, after the off spinner’s eight-wicket haul took him to 113 wickets against India, overtaking former India captain Anil Kumble for the most in Tests between the countries.

Earlier, Lyon became the most successful spinner to play against India, going past Sri Lanka legend Muttiah Muralitharan — the all-time leading Test wicket-taker.

Plucked out of obscurity to debut for Australia in Sri Lanka in 2011, Lyon is now up to 479 Test wickets — eighth on the all-time list — with seemingly many more to come.