By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) – Australia looked set for their biggest score of the series against India after half a century from first opener Will Pucovski helped them to 166 for two at the end of the first day of the third Test and interrupted yesterday’s rain. .
Pucovski rode his luck for his 62 but his partnership of 100 with Marnus Labuschagne for the second wicket established a solid platform for the hosts as they sought to break a 1-1 tie in the four-game series.
Labuschagne marked his ninth Test half-century to end the day on 67 not out with Steve Smith unbeaten on 31 at the other end in a potentially ominous stand between Australia’s two best batsmen. “It’s nice to spend some time out there,” said Smith, who had scored just 10 runs in his previous four flyovers in the series.
“Build a nice partnership with Marnus and hope we can bat for a bit tomorrow.”
Australia’s previous best total in the series was their 200 in a lost effort in the second Test in Melbourne and they revamped their opening partnership to Sydney in an effort to improve matters.
David Warner returned after failing the first two Tests with an injury to his groin but his stay in crease was short and he departed for five innings in a Mohammed Siraj delivery and flew to Cheteshwar Pujara in the slips. The rain fell shortly thereafter with only seven overs completed and it was four hours before the sky cleared and Pucovski was able to return to the crease. ‘I loved it!’ Pucovski makes his mark in the baggy green The 22-year-old player was dropped behind the stumps twice by Indian wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, who survived the scare of a run-out but made the most of his restorations to reach the half-century with its fourth border.
His innings ended when he was caught at lbw to give his first Test wicket to Indian sailor Navdeep Saini as he also made his first appearance in place of the injured Umesh Yadav.
“I absolutely loved it; this was probably my favorite day of cricket yet, ”said Pucovski.
“I’m very hopeful that with what we’ve got, and the batting we have to bring, we can build a pretty big total.”
Siraj said his teammates would have to be patient in the absence of any help from the wicket.
“It was a flat wicket, great for batting,” said the 26-year-old who made his Test debut in the previous game in Melbourne.
“Our target will be to build weights by hitting the same area and bowling dot balls after dot balls. We saw some twists towards the end; let’s see how it closes tomorrow. “
After a second outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney, the match was played in front of a smaller presence of around 10 000 fans with the wearing of masks mandatory for fans except when eating or drinking.
The fourth Test is expected to start on January 15 in Brisbane but reports remain that India may refuse to go north due to the quarantine measures they will face in Queensland.
AUSTRALIA Innings first
Will Pucovski lbw Navdeep Saini 62
David Warner c Cheteshwar Pujara b Mohammed Siraj 5
Marnus Labuschagne not out 67
Steven Smith not out 31
Additions: (nb-1) 1
Total: (two wkts, 55.0 overs) 166
Wicket fall: 1-6, 2-106.
Bowls: Jasprit Bumrah 14-3-30-0, Mohammed Siraj 14-3-46-1, Ravichandran Ashwin 17-1-56-0, Navdeep Saini 7-0-32-1 (nb-1), Ravindra Jadeja 3 -2-2-0.