Steve Smith scored his first century since the 2019 Ashes series and helped cushion Australia from another batting collapse as it was all out for 338 before India reached 26 without loss at tea on the second day of the third cricket test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Smith’s 131 was Australia’s first century of the series and a vital innings in the context of the match, and possibly the series, as the hosts squandered the strong foundation laid by its top-order batsmen.
Having resumed Friday at 166-2, Australia’s batting frailties were again exposed as it lost its final eight wickets for 130 runs as India’s bowlers, led by Ravi Jadeja’s 4-62, fought back.
India’s openers then survived to tea unscathed with Shubman Gill on 14 and Rohit Sharma on 11.
Like his fabled performances in the 2019 Ashes, Smith again proved masterful and combined with Marnus Labuschagne for a century partnership in the morning session after the hosts resumed on Friday at 166-2.
After Labuschagne (91) fell narrowly short of his fifth test century as part of a 100-run partnership with Smith, the latter took on the familiar role of leading Australia’s batting against a disciplined Indian bowling attack which rallied strongly.
Smith reached his 27th hundred in 76 tests with a leg glance for three runs off Navdeep Saini in the 98th over. The former captain was far more effusive in his celebration than usual reflecting the relief at having scored his first century in 15 innings spanning four series.
It was Smith’s first century in Australia since December 2017 in a drawn test against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Smith’s eighth 100 against India came in 259 minutes off 201 balls, with 13 boundaries, and was the first against India in a home test since David Warner’s quickfire century at the SCG in 2015.
Earlier Friday, Labuschagne made 91 off 196 balls, and shared a century stand with Smith to see Australia past 200 runs for the first time in five innings this series, before he edged the impressive Jadeja to Ajinkya Rahane at slip.
Jadeja then had Matthew Wade (13) playing a poor shot to be caught in the deep, before Jasprit Bumrah (2-66) trapped Cameron Green lbw with the last ball before lunch.
After lunch, captain Tim Paine (1) and Pat Cummins (0) were both bowled cheaply leaving Australia at 278-7.
Starc scored 24 off 30 balls, including two boundaries and a six, before holing out from debutant Saini (2-65).
Nathan Lyon was also out for a duck, trapped by Jadeja to reduce the hosts to 315-9.
Smith’s was the last wicket to fall, run out spectacularly by Jadeja at deep square leg, as he was chasing a quick runs with Josh Hazelwood.
On Thursday, Will Pucovski set the tone with a flourishing 62 on debut, before Labuschagne and Smith took over as Australia’s batting lineup finally clicked against India on a rain-interrupted opening day after Australia won the toss and elected to bat.
The four-match Border-Gavaskar trophy series is level at 1-1. The holder India is hoping to secure it with a victory in Sydney and Australia needing to win the series to reclaim it.
Australia won the opening day-night match in Adelaide by eight wickets and India responded with an eight-wicket win in Melbourne last week.
Source: United News of Bangladesh