Labuschagne and Smith are leading Australia to a worrying lead over India


Sydney (AFP)

Round one heroes Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith led Australia to a 197 point lead in the high-stakes third test on Saturday, leaving India injured with a mountain to climb.

They came into the zone after Will Pucovski and David Warner fell early, pushing them to 103 for two on stumps and a strong position with the four-test streak locked at 1-1.

Labuschagne, who scored 91 points in the first innings, was not out on 47 and Smith, who blitzed 131 on his first shot, undefeated on 29.

Australia swelled again after taking eight wickets on day three to send India back for 244 in response to hosts’ 338.

“I woke up today hoping that by the end of the game we still weren’t at the bowling alley and had a nearly 200 lead, a great day,” said Australian spearhead Pat Cummins , who took 4-29.

“I think we have to (beat) for at least a session and a half, two sessions tomorrow and then have a good crack. ”

Indian Cheteshwar Pujara, who has made a 50-year-old patient, said early wickets would be crucial for his team on Sunday.

“We have to get a few wickets early tomorrow morning and not allow them free races in the first session,” he said.

India’s task was made more difficult by the absence of key spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who was sent in for scans after a thumbs-up while hitting. Wicket keeper Rishabh Pant joined him at the clinic after a nasty blow to the elbow.

This has piled more misery on India, which was already without injured bowlers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma and batsman KL Rahul, while skipper Virat Kohli is on paternity leave.

Despite this, Mohammed Siraj stepped in to retire Pucovski for 10, caught by substitute goalkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

Ravi Ashwin then took David Warner’s prized scalp for 13, his ninth career layoff from the opener, trapping him lbw.

But disciplined Labuschagne and Smith have stabilized the ship, building a menacing 68-race partnership that is slowly taking the game away from India.

– Crumble –

India was just before tea after a scintillating bowling alley and razor sharp fielding, having resumed at Sydney Cricket Ground the 96 for two.

Cummins trapped Pujara while Josh Hazlewood took off dangerous pants after a windy 36.

The pair’s fall saw the team fall apart, with Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah both exhausted, joining Hanuma Vihari who suffered the same fate earlier in the day.

A cautious Pujara started the day at nine and captain Ajinkya Rahane two after Hazlewood and Cummins sacked openers Rohit Sharma (26) and Shubman Gill (50) on Friday.

Rahane, who scored a century in the last test in Melbourne, escaped on the 16th, with a delivery from Nathan Lyon in the balloon to short-legged Matthew Wade, who could only put his fingertips on the ball.

The skipper then hit Lyon for six years before his new assault cost him his wicket, slicing a Cummins bullet off his stumps in the next.

Pujara did what he does best, crushing singles while occasionally opening his bat, upping his 26th half century.

But the celebrations were short-lived, with Pant two balls later edging a Hazlewood delivery to Warner at the slip.

And it got worse when Pujara was taken out in the next, glancing a soaring Cummins ball to goalkeeper Tim Paine.

“They played a good line and a good length and it was not easy… it is not easy to score points, so you have to spend a lot of time in the crease and wait for the loose ball to come in”, said Pujara said.

India collapsed, Ashwin slowed for a single and Cummins alert, making a quick throw at Labuschagne standing on the stumps.

This followed Vihari who brilliantly exhausted himself before lunch, attempting a run that wasn’t there, with Hazlewood diving and throwing the ball in one stroke.

Bumrah became the third race of the day, thanks to a super-fast Labuschagne.


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