The match is interestingly poised at the end of Day 2 of the 3rd test match between India and Australia at the SCG.
Steve Smith finally overcame his lean spell with a brilliant fighting century but India managed to grab back some of the initiative thanks to Ravindra Jadeja’s four-wicket haul.
Later, rookie Shubman Gill scored a confident half-century as a determined India reached 96/2 after dismissing Australia for 338.
The track was dead as the proverbial dodo but full credit to the Indian bowlers, especially Jadeja (18-3-62-4) and the peerless Jasprit Bumrah (25.4-7-66-2). Their length was spot on on the flat SCG deck and were rewarded for their consistency with wickets.
It was a great comeback by India as at one stage, Australia were 206 for 2 and Smith (131) along with Marnus Labuschagne (91) were looking good enough to post a mammoth 500+ run total.
Jadeja started the rot by bagging Labuschagne, who was looking good for a hundred, but the arm ball from Jadeja, bounced a bit more and his cut shot landed in the safe hands of Ajinkya Rahane, who positioned himself a bit wide at the first slip.
Smith completed his half-century in the very next over after Labuschagne’s dismissal, off Ravichandran Ashwin (0/74 in 24 overs), who has been well below his best during the five sessions that India had been on field.
While Jadeja got a couple of wickets, both Ashwin and him erred on the shorter side of the length giving Smith ample opportunity to rock back and play through the vacant spaces in the off-side area.
Since the pitch held no demons, Smith did cover his leg-stump while going across and was hardly troubled by the Indian bowlers.
Smith looked like he would never get out and finally, it was only a piece of breath-taking fielding from Jadeja that got him out.
Earlier, Bumrah’s quick dismissals of Cameron Green and skipper Paine brought India back into the game.
Green faced 21 balls for his 0 and he was probably relieved when Bumrah’s torrid interrogation ended with a LBW.
Paine was bowled all ends up with a perfect in-swinger having scored just 1 in 10 balls.
Mitchell Starc struck a defiant note with an attacking 24 off 30 balls that pushed Australia over 300.
The only blot on the Indians’ efforts were the number of catches dropped by Rishabh Pant, something that will need to be corrected sooner than later.
Confident Indian reply
The 21-year-old Shubman Gill (50, 101 balls) and Rohit Sharma (26 off 77 balls) added 70 in 27 overs.
It was Gill’s maiden Test half century in just his second match.
Both the openers looked ready to pull the fast bowlers during their opening spells and displayed a positive mindset.
However, both frittered away their good starts but at least prepared a good launch pad to the middle order to exploit the flat 3rd day pitch.
Rahane and Pujara began very slowly. The unbeaten partnership between Pujara and Rahane reads: 11 runs, 12.5 overs, run rate: 0.85.
But if they string together a big partnership on Day 3, nobody will be complaining about the scoring rate, for sure!