Ravindra Jadeja struck 4 Wickets and Shubman Gill hit his maiden Test fifty as India finished Day Two on 96 for 2, trailing Australia by 242 runs in the first innings.

Full Scorecard Steve Smith’s brilliant hundred was counterbalanced by Ravindra Jadeja’s four-wicket haul and rookie Shubman Gill’s fluent half-century as a resolute India reached 96/2 after dismissing Australia for 338 on the second day of the third Test in Sydney on Friday.

The Indian bowlers, especially Jadeja who took 4 wickets and the ever-dependable Jasprit Bumrah took 2 wickets were excellent with their length on a flat SCG deck were Smith (131 off 226 balls) along with Marnus Labuschagne (91 off 196 balls) raised visions of a 450-plus total by taking the side to 206 for 2 at one stage. But in the end, 338 was all they managed in a little less than 106 overs with none of the other batsmen making any telling contribution.

It was only fitting that Jadeja’s split-second brilliance from the deep found Smith short of his crease.

Before it was the patient and collective Gill (50, 101 balls), who was assured during those cover drives off Nathan Lyon and equally breathtaking while presenting his forward defence to Pat Cummins.

Two key strikes changed the tone of the day however as Josh Hazlewood caught Rohit Sharma off his own bowling for 26 before Pat Cummins took the impressive Shubman Gill’s edge for 50.

Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma (26 off 77 balls) added 70 in 27 overs but more importantly set the stage for skipper Ajinkya Rahane (5 batting off 40 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (9 batting off 53 balls) to cash in on the batting-friendly conditions on the third day.

Despite the cloud cover for the better part of the day, there was no swing on offer and lack of moisture meant that there wasn’t any turn or for that matter, even some movement off the pitch.

The Australian attack seemed flatter than ever and Rohit, playing his first game in nearly two months, did all the hard work for nearly two hours before failing to check an uppish drive that was pouched by the bowler.

But it was a day when India had two openers, who were both waiting to pull the fast bowlers during their opening spells and dominate Lyon with precise footwork.

Both frittered away good starts but in the broader context, provided the launchpad which the team failed to get in the first two Tests.

The first two sessions could be ideally described as fascinating with Australia getting 172 runs in just under 51 overs, largely due to some positive batting by Smith, Labuschagne and down the order Mitchell Starc (24 off 30 balls).

But Jadeja and Bumrah, especially with the second new ball, were on target even as debutant Navdeep Saini (2/65) leaked a few runs due to sheer inexperience.

The Sydney track didn’t have much help for the slow bowlers in the first two days but that didn’t deter Jadeja from denying Labuschagne a deserving hundred.

Jadeja found Labuschagne’s outside edge with a ball that bounced a little more than usual and Ajinkya Rahane reacted quickly to reach low to his right to take a sharp catch at first slip to send the Australian on his way for 91.

Smith made 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 the field.

The Indian bowlers continued bowling in straight lines with a heavy leg-side field that they have been employing since the second Test match.

What changed for Australia was the understanding of the opposition strategy better as they showed aggressive intent.

Back in his natural position in the middle-order, Matthew Wade looked to play the aggressor, sweeping Jadeja repeatedly as he looked to force the field back. It brought him 13 runs before it backfired badly, charging Jadeja but only managing to chip him to midwicket.

It came at the worst possible time for Australia too, bringing the inexperienced Cameron Green out to the middle with the second new ball just 3.1 overs away.

It would be a tortured stay for Green, who was repeatedly pushed back by Jasprit Bumrah before having his front pad blown off the Indian seamer for a 21-ball duck.

While Jadeja got a few wickets, both Ashwin and Jadeja 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.

While the unusual shuffle was still there, Smith did cover his leg-stump while going across and was hardly bothered by the Indian bowlers.

Despite a tight leg-side field, he was able to find on-side gaps and once it was 278 for 7 after Pat Cummins’ dismissal, the next 60 runs came in a very soon in 11 overs, courtesy Smith’s aggressive approach. Smith played a couple of adventurous shots before he was undone by Jadeja’s brilliance on the field. Smith was getting the better of Bumrah but tried to take on Jadeja’s arm and the gun fielder was having none of it. Jadeja got the direct hit from deep square leg and brought an end to what was an outstanding innings.


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