Smith closes a century but India remains in the hunt

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Sydney (AFP)

Australian driver Steve Smith was undefeated on the 76 but India grabbed the key wickets from Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade to leave the third Test finely prepared for lunch on the second day of Friday.

On a cloudy and windy morning at Sydney Cricket Ground, the hosts picked up at 166 for two after dropping 35 overs in showers on day one, when they lost David Warner for five and Will Pucovski scored 62 in his debut.

After a session that started half an hour earlier to make up for lost time, but which was also hit by two rain breaks, Australia had fallen to 249 for five at lunch.

All-rounder Cameron Green was absent without scoring against Jasprit Bumrah on the last ball before the break, after Labuschagne (91) and Wade (13) both fell to Ravindra Jadeja.

Labuschagne took over the 67 and the Smith 31, with the two men, close friends, taking advantage of a relatively flat ground to evoke a partnership with 100.

It was a typically patient round for Labuschagne on a field where he scored 215 this time last year against New Zealand.

But as he neared a fifth century of testing, he was embarrassed by Jadeja.

Faced with a ball that took an extra rebound, he passed it to Ajinkya Rahane on the slide, the Indian skipper taking a good grip.

On the other end, Smith, in double digits for the first time in this series, looked ominous on his home ground, crushing a Bumrah four on the first ball he faced from India’s top bowler.

He survived an ambitious lbw exam on 41 before doing his 30th half-century Test, drilling Ravi Ashwin into the ground before light rain set in.

On their 24-minute return off the field, after an eight-minute break earlier, Wade was defeated by natural aggression, recklessly skiing a ball from Jadeja to Bumrah.

Green survived 21 bullets before Bumrah got him down.

The four-down streak is locked at 1-1 following Australia’s victory in Adelaide and India’s counterattack in Melbourne.

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