Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne scored half centuries to stretch Australia’s lead over India on Sunday to 276 and put them on pole position to win the third Test and go 2-1 in the series.
Resuming Day 4 in Sydney at 103 for two, the hosts reached 182 for four at lunch with centenary first-round maker Smith undefeated on 58 and Cameron Green on 20, leaving captain Tim Paine wondering when to call.
Labuschagne was one of two wickets to die for, leaving for a well-built 73 after his first 91 innings, caught by substitute goalkeeper Wriddhiman Saha off Navdeep Saini.
Matthew Wade was out for four, with Saini and Saha doing the damage again.
After India was knocked out for 244 in response to Australia’s 338, Labuschagne took over the 47 and Smith 29 with India needing an early breakthrough to keep their hopes of winning alive.
Labuschagne should have fallen on the second ball, but a terrible mistake from Hanuma Vihari left melon Jasprit Bumrah clinging to the face in disbelief.
Labuschagne threw a straight delivery on a square leg at knee height for what should have been a regulation take, but she somehow hit Vihari’s wrist and fell to the ground.
It was another setback for a team without the rotation of dynamic all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja after he was hit in the left thumb while punching on Saturday.
He did not take the pitch with Indian media saying he was dislocated and only beating “if necessary”, with the injury likely to rule him out of the fourth test next week.
Rishabh Pant also took a nasty blow to the elbow while hitting and was another no-show with Saha keeping the wicket instead.
However, his injury was not thought to be as severe as Jadeja and he was expected to beat through the pain in their chase.
Labuschagne turned back the 50s straight with just one off Bumrah and looked comfortable until Saini broke his 103-innings partnership with Smith.
This proved slow for Smith as India found a variable rebound to make life difficult.
But after his first 131 innings, he kept his focus to mark another half-century, ably accompanied by Green, with his eyes on a 28th ton.
© 2021 AFP