Not for the first time, Australia are again indebted to Steve Smith as they ended day two of the crucial third Test with a 242-run advantage over India (Australia 8/13, Draw 3/1, India 5/1 – 3rd Test Match Betting).
Beginning the day on 166-2, the hosts appeared set for a big score as Marnus Labuschagne and Smith looked in little trouble as they progressed their partnership to three figures.
However, once the pair had put on exactly 100, things started to fall apart with Labuschagne edging Ravindra Jadeja to slip to depart for 91, the first of the spinner’s four wickets.
Despite the chaos around him, it was a welcome return to form with the bat for Smith, who had made just ten runs in four innings over the first two Tests, as Australia might have been in a lot worse trouble were it not for his first century since the fourth Ashes Test against England in 2019.
Achieving the landmark was no easy feat as he received little support from the lower order, with only Matthew Wade (13) and Mitchell Starc (24) reaching double figures.
Smith was the last man out for 131, having got the Aussies up tp 338, with Jadeja affecting the run out, while finishing with figures of 4-62 to highlight his importance for India.
Rohit Sharma (26) and Shubman Gill (50) got the tourists off to a decent start but their late dismissals left the match evenly poised as they reached the close on 96-2, trailing Australia by 242 runs.
Cheteshwar Pujara (13/10 to score 50) and captain Ajinkya Rahane (6/4) took very little risk in seeing their side to the close, facing 93 balls for 14 runs combined, but may look to be a little more attacking on day three.
With the series locked at 1-1 and question marks surrounding the fourth Test in Brisbane actually going ahead, the series outcome could potentially hang on the action in Sydney.