Gritty knocks from Marnus Labuschagne and debutant opener Will Pucovski and a determined play from Stev Smith on Thursday put Australia at the front seat after the end of the first day’s play in the third Test against India.
On what was a rain-hit day in Sydney, Australia reached 166/2 at Stumps, thanks to Puckovski’s 62 and Labuschagne’s unbeaten 68. Smith remained not out at the end on 31.
Earlier, Australia had decided to bat first on what looked like a placid wicket at the Sydney Cricket Ground. However, the hosts were not off to a great start as David Warner failed to register a meaningful comeback.
Warner, who was making his comeback after missing the first two Tests and the ODI series due to a groin injury from the T20I series, was caught in slips by Cheteshwar Pujara off Mohammed Siraj’s delivery. He made five runs.
Australia had reached 21/1 when rain came pouring in the seventh over and players left the field. Umpires called for early Lunch and the play resumed only after a lengthy break in the second session.
Indian bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah, Siraj and Ravichandran Ashwin — all bowled on tight lines and lengths and made sure the hosts didn’t score freely after the break. However, in the last 45 minutes of the session, the visitors were a bit sloppy in the field as wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant dropped two catches of Pucovski — one against Ashwin and other against Siraj — and allowed the debutant to score his maiden half century as Australia reached 93/1 at Tea.
In the final session of the day, Australia lost Pucovski who became the first Test scalp of debutant Navdeep Saini. The 22-year-old got out lbw after scoring 62 runs in the 110 deliveries he faced during the course of his innings.
Smith, who had struggled in the first two Tests, came out with a positive intent this time around and scored quite a few boundaries and didn’t let the Indian bowlers, particularly Ashwin, dictate terms.
Along with Labuschagne, the duo added 60 runs for third wicket and laid a solid platform for the hosts to set a huge first-innings total.
Brief scores: 166/2 at Stumps on Day One (Marnus Labuschagne 67*, Will Pucovski 62; Navdeep Saini 1/32)