Steve Smith’s first century of testing on home soil in three years has the third test in play, India 96-2 after day two in response to Australia’s 338.
With the four-game series tied at 1-1, Smith watched the wickets tumble around him as he emerged from the drought of his century with a near-chancellor-less 131 at SCG.
Pat Cummins then played superbly late to finish with 1-19, consistently beating the outside edge in his 12 overs as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane battled stumps. Australia quickly knocked out Shubman Gill on the gully for 50, just as the stylish young opener looked poised to put India in the seat as he threw himself into something short.
Josh Hazlewood (1-23) claimed the other scalp of the afternoon, taking a chance to bring down Rohit Sharma for 26. scored just 12 points from the last 15 overs of the day.
But Friday belonged to Smith, whose century marked his first ton of testing in Australia since the bullet-tampering scandal and his first in 16 months. The former captain celebrated his 27th centenary with passion, throwing his bat twice in the air in a mixture of relief and jubilation.
Smith was keen to play more positively after being sacked cheap in the first two tests, leading the field gloriously throughout his shot. The 31-year-old then took that to the extreme late, his last 27 points coming from 14 balls before a superb direct hit from Ravindra Jadeja knocked him out and ended Australia’s innings.
Smith’s century helped solve Australia’s problems with tourists. In his absence two summers ago, not an Australian has gone over 100 in the historic 2-1 home series loss to India.
His triple digits on Friday helped them reach their biggest score of the summer so far, with the hosts surpassing 200 for the first time in this series. But coach Justin Langer will always feel frustrated as no batsman below him could stay as long as Jadeja won 4-62 and Jasprit Bumrah 2-66.
Australia were at a 2-206 stage on the back of 62nd debutant Will Pucovski when Marnus Labuschagne was caught in the first slide on 91. Labuschagne barely looked troubled before Jadeja took the lead, ending a 100 point stand with Smith.
It triggered a five-wicket collapse for 72 runs, which included a loose shot from Matt Wade on 13 when he jumped across the bridge to Jadeja and got an advantage. Cameron Green (0) and Tim Paine (1) both fell to Bumrah’s inswingers, before Cummins was also played for Jadeja for a duck.
A victory for India in Sydney would be enough for them to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.