Sydney, January 8 : With India openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill looking good to go for the kill, it looked like the visitors would bat Australia out of the game. But two wickets in the final 90 minutes of play on day two of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday has tipped the scale slightly in favour of the hosts.
At stumps, India's score read 96/2 - trailing Australia by 242 runs with eight wickets in the bag - with stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane (5) and Cheteshwar Pujara (9) at the crease. Having put on India's first 50-run opening stand after 14 innings, Rohit and Gill were looking in top form. But while Josh Hazlewood sent Rohit back for 26, Pat Cummins picked the wicket of the in-form Gill for 50. The sessions card at the end of the day's action might read 2-1 in favour of India, but it was the Australian pace attack that turned the table for hosts in the final session of the day. While the Australian bowlers dominated the closing stages, it was Gill who impressed with some quality shots. More than anything, it was the temperament shown by the youngster that stood out.
While Indian batsmen are known to be good with the drives and flicks, Gill looked rock solid even with the pull and cut. It almost looked like he was set for a big score before he edged one to Cameron Green. But Rahane and Pujara ensured that Australia didn't make any further inroads.
Earlier, while the Indian bowlers came out all guns blazing on the second day, Steve Smith roared back to form with a scintillating century, his eighth against India. He looked in complete control and dominated the bowling like he is known to. It finally took a piece of brilliance from Ravindra Jadeja to run him out on 131 as the Australian innings ended on 338.
Resuming the day on 166/2, Marnus Labuschagne and Smith had kept the scoreboard ticking and helped the side cross the 200-run mark. Spinner Jadeja finally broke the stand as he bagged Labuschagne's (91) wicket.
While Matthew Wade failed to capitalise, all-rounder Cameron Green failed to bother the scorers and walked back to the pavilion for a duck after facing 21 balls. The first session on day two also saw rain playing spoilsport as play was interrupted twice. Green's dismissal saw the umpires call for lunch.
In the second session, it was mostly the Indian bowlers who were on top as the hosts scored 89 runs and lost five wickets. While Australia did finally manage to cross the 300-run mark, skipper Paine would have expected more after sitting pretty on 206/2 at one stage with Smith and Labuschagne going well. For the visitors, while Jadeja bagged four wickets, Bumrah and Saini finished with two wickets apiece.