Australia came up with their best batting performance so far in the series to dominate the opening day of the third Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday. The hosts finished with 166-2 after debutant Will Pucovski and Marnus Labuschagne scored impressive fifties.
Tim Paine showed no hesitation in opting to bat first after winning the toss but the hosts didn’t get to an ideal start as David Warner was dismissed early. The southpaw was found fending to a wide delivery outside the off-stump but could only manage a thick outside edge.
Australia scored 21 runs in the first 40 minutes before rain halted play and the players had to wait for almost three hours for the game to resume. The hosts showed more urgency in scoring their runs, which they have lacked so far in the series, as Pucovski and Labuschagne stealed some quick singles from under the noses of Indian fielders.
The debutant had the rub of the green on his side on 26 and 32 as he was given two lives by Rishabh Pant. First, Pant bungled a straightforward chance against Ashwin and then he couldn’t hold to a slightly difficult opportunity against Siraj.
Pucovski made the most of his second chances and mostly played with the straight bat to bring up his fifty on debut. However, the 22-year old right-hander finally ran out of luck when he was plumbed in front of the wickets by debutant Navdeep Saini, who got the full-pitched delivery right on target. This ended a threatening 100-run partnership between Pucovski and Labuschagne.
Subsequently, Steve Smith, who has been kept quiet by the Indian bowlers, made an aggressive start to his innings. Smith looked like Smith as he played some classic straight drives to ease off the pressure from his shoulders. On the other hand, Labuschagne continued to impress as he scored his maiden fifty of the series.
Australia dominated two out of the three sessions and they look set for posting a big score in the first innings.
Brief scores: Australia 166/2 (Will Pucovski 62, Marnus Labuschagne 67*, Steve Smith 31*; Mohammed Siraj 1-46, Navdeep Saini 1-32).