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Smith breaks drought as India fight back



Steve Smith made his first Test century in Australia for more than three years posting 131 to lead Australia to a first innings total of 338 on the second day of the third Test against India at the SCG on Friday.


India's bowlers fought back with the second new ball despite Smith's 27th Test hundred, reaching stumps at 2-96 to leave the Test in the balance.


Australia started the day at 2-166 with Marnus Labuschagne and Smith together at the crease, Labuschagne looking in no trouble as he moved towards a century.


With his fifth Test ton in sight Labuschagne was caught at slip by Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane, left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja the bowler as the Queenslander departed for 91.


Smith reached his first half century of the series with a drive to the boundary off Ashwin, but new man Matthew Wade's positivity caused his downfall as he skied a catch off the leading edge to mid-on having made 13, moments before the second new ball.


Jasprit Bumrah made a telling double blow either side of lunch,trapping young all-rounder Cameron Green in front for a 21 ball duck before bowling Australian captain Tim Paine (1) after the interval.


Smith was continuing unabated for the home side but lost another partner when Pat Cummins played over a yorker from Jadeja, having also failed to trouble the scorers.


With Smith on 99 new man Mitch Starc claimed much of the strike for the next couple of overs, eventually reaching three figures with a clip behind square leg for three to reach the milestone.


It was Smith's first hundred in Australia since December 2017, and first in Test cricket since September 2019 when he made 211 in the 4th Ashes Test at Old Trafford.


Starc (24) and Nathan Lyon (0) fell in consecutive overs as the end of the innings rapidly approached on a great second day for India, Smith hitting out with number eleven Josh Hazlewood for company before being run out by a direct hit from man of the moment Jadeja, throwing down the stumps with a superb throw from deep backward square leg.


Australia's innings ended at 338, Smith, Labuschagne and Test debutant Will Pucovski the three telling contributors with the bat.


Jadeja claimed four wickets as well as his run out, Saini and Bumrah with two scalps each in a fine fightback from India on a flat surface.


The visitors opening batting combination of Shubman Gill and returning vice-captain Rohit Sharma adding a half century stand for the first wicket to drive home the day two dominance.


But as so often is the case Australia fought back late, Hazlewood claiming a catch off his own bowling to dismiss Sharma (27) and Cummins claiming the wicket of Gill having made secured his maiden Test half century moments earlier, Green with a sharp low catch to his left at gully to end Gill's promising stay.


Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane safely saw India through to stumps at 2-96, trailing by 242 runs heading to day three on what promises to be a telling day in the overall outcome of the series.


IMAGE: The Telegraph.