Riding on Shubman Gill's maiden fifty, India went to stumps on day two at 96/2 in response to Australia's 338, which was headlined by Steve Smith's spectacular 131, in the third Test in Sydney.
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, which was sparked by Ravindra Jadeja, 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.
Australia's bowlers found better discipline after the break and tied the scoring rate down. Rohit tried breaking free on occasions, even advancing down the track to hit Lyon over long on for six. Australia thought they had him when Wade took a catch at forward short leg off Lyon, but Rohit reviewed the on-field call to survive.
Rahane and Pujara survive as India finish the day on 96/2, a deficit of 242 after Australia posted 338.— ICC (@ICC) January 8, 2021
Who was the star of the day?#AUSvIND SCORECARD ▶ https://t.co/Zuk24dsH1t pic.twitter.com/QPB4AFg9eg
The pair brought up India's maiden half-century opening stand this series, but the built-up pressure paid off for Australia when Rohit, on 26, played a loose drive back to Hazlewood, who took a sharp catch.
Gill rode out the period and cashed in when the quick bowlers went short at him. 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, who had begun finding life in the pitch, induced the outside edge, which was caught expertly by Cameron Green, diving to his left at gully.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill bring up India's first 50-run partnership for the opening wicket this Test series.— ICC (@ICC) January 8, 2021
How many more runs can the duo add?#AUSvIND SCORECARD ▶ https://t.co/Zuk24dsH1t pic.twitter.com/yrGGMFaJ3q
Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were given a thorough examination and Rahane even survived an inside edge off Lyon, which ricocheted off his pad to fall just short of Wade at short leg. Later he padded off to a Lyon delivery and survived on umpire's call after Australians sent the lbw appeal upstairs. The experienced pair were able to grind through a testing, closing spell from Mitchell Starc to carry India to stumps in a reasonably comfortable position.
The day had begun positively for Australia with overnight batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Smith picking 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.
It takes a brilliant Jadeja run-out to dismiss the magnificent Steve Smith 🔥— ICC (@ICC) January 8, 2021
Australia are all out for 338. How will India's response go?#AUSvIND SCORECARD ▶ https://t.co/Zuk24dsH1t pic.twitter.com/AdIKMLRNsf
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 in his bid to farm strike.
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