Sydney, January 10
An improved Navdeep Saini got a couple of wickets but Australia thoroughly enjoyed the upper-hand, reaching 182 for four at lunch on the fourth day of the third Test with half-centuries from Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.
By the end of the first session, Australia extended their overall lead to 276 runs and anything above 300 plus is expected to be a winning total unless a 10-man India, without the services of an injured Ravindra Jadeja, bat out of their skin on a two-paced SCG track.
Labuschagne (73 off 118 balls) once again batted positively during his second century partnership of the match (103 runs) with mentor Smith (58 batting, 155 balls), who employed a more cautious approach.
The Indians once again bowled straight to Smith with a packed leg-side field but Labuschagne, before missing out on yet another chance to score a Test hundred, scored freely with nine boundaries to his credit.
Labuschagne could have been out off the day’s second ball bowled by Jasprit Bumrah (0/40 in 15 overs) had Hanuma Vihari taken a simple offering at square leg with the batsman still on his overnight score of 47.
Unlike India on the third day, Australia scored at a decent pace, adding 79 runs during the morning session.
It was substitute keeper Wriddhiman Saha, whose impressive catch down the leg side saw the end of Labuschagne following his faint tickle after Saini (2/47 in 14 overs) extracted extra bounce off the pitch.
The debutant got another wicket in quick time as Matthew Wade nicked an easy one to Saha for his third catch of the innings.
At the break, Cameron Green (20 batting) was giving company to Smith, who completed his second half-century of the match in 134 balls.
Jadeja’s absence did hurt the bowling and Ravichandran Ashwin (1/57 in 17 overs) erred in his length on the shorter side. Australian batsmen didn’t find it difficult to manoeuvre Ashwin’s bowling as there wasn’t much pace or zip off the pitch. PTI