3rd Test, Day 2: India 96/2 at stumps, trail Australia by 242 runs

Sydney: Riding on Shubman Gill’s maiden fifty, India went to stumps at 96/2, trailing Australia’s first-innings total of 338 by 242 runs on the second day of the third Test, here on Friday.

Steve Smith was the star performer for Australia with his spectacular 131 but his century was neutralised by Indian bowlers especially Ravindra Jadeja’s four-wicket haul and Shubman Gill’s fluent fifty on Day 2.

Smith snapped a patch of poor form with an imperious century – his 27th in Test cricket – to help Australia tide over a middle-order collapse, to post a respectable 338. In response, Gill made a fine maiden Test fifty as India reached 96/2 at stumps, still trailing by 242 runs with the match in balance.

Alongside Gill, Rohit Sharma, playing his first game on this tour, looked in decent form, getting off the mark with the first ball he faced with a flick to deep square leg. He and Gill took India off to a positive start, going to the tea break at 26/0.

After the tea break, Rohit tried breaking free on occasions by advancing down the track to hit Lyon over long on for six. The pair of brought up India’s maiden half-century opening stand this series.

Hazlewood gave Australia the much-needed wicket as Rohit, on 26, played a loose drive back to pacer, who took a sharp catch.

However, Gill continued batting with ease as he was able to duck under bouncers easily and also played some stunning backfoot punches and pull shots, working his way to a fine maiden Test fifty.

The celebrations were short-lived though as Cummins, induced the outside edge, which was caught expertly by Cameron Green, diving to his left at gully.

Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were given a tough challenge by Aussie bowlers but experienced pair were able to grind through the testing bowling spells, to carry India to stumps in a reasonably comfortable position. Pujara and Rahane remained unbeaten on nine and five respectively at the end of play on Day 2.

Earlier in the day, Australia’s overnight batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Smith picked up from where they left off the previous evening, taking the score past 200 in relatively effortless fashion.

At 206/2, Australia seemed locked in for a total of over 400, but India roared back into the contest with Jadeja playing a key role. The left-arm spinner sparked a middle-order collapse by having Labuschagne nick one to slip for 91.

A few overs later, Jadeja dismissed Wade for 13 with the left-hander trying to him out of the park. Japrit Bumrah then used the second new ball to good effect, bowling probing lines to have Cameron Green trapped in front for a 23-ball duck before cleaning up Australia captain Tim Paine for one with an in-seaming delivery.

Undeterred by the flurry of wickets at the other end, Smith kept growing in confidence playing superbly against fast bowlers and spinners alike. He brought up his century with a nudge to the on-side, marking his return to form in style after a succession of single-digit scores this series.

But he wasn’t to have much support at the other end, except through a rapid 24 by Mitchell Starc, who was happy to take on the short ball barrage he received from India’s quicks, particularly Navdeep Saini.

Jadeja dismissed Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon cheaply to extend his tally to four wickets. He then wrapped up the innings with a sensational throw from the deep to catch Smith short as the batsman looked to eke out a tight second run.

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