Smith closes in on century but India stay in hunt

Sydney (AFP) –


Australia danger man Steve Smith was unbeaten on 76 but India snared the key wickets of Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade to leave the third Test finely poised at lunch on day two Friday.

On an overcast and breezy morning at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the hosts resumed at 166 for two after losing 35 overs to showers on day one, when they lost David Warner for five and Will Pucovski scored 62 on debut.

After a session that started half-an-hour early to make up for lost time, but was also hit by two rain breaks, Australia had moved to 249 for five by lunch.

All-rounder Cameron Green was out without scoring to Jasprit Bumrah on the last ball before the break, after Labuschagne (91) and Wade (13) both fell to the spin of Ravindra Jadeja.

Labuschagne resumed on 67 and Smith 31, with both men, close friends, making the most of a relatively flat pitch to bring up a 100-partnership.

It was a typically patient innings from Labuschagne on a ground where he scored 215 this time last year against New Zealand.

But as he closed in on a fifth Test century, he was bamboozled by Jadeja.

Facing a ball that took extra bounce, he thick-edged it to Ajinkya Rahane at slip, with the Indian skipper taking a sharp catch.

At the other end, Smith, in double figures for the first time this series, looked ominous on his home ground, crunching a four off Bumrah on the first ball he faced from India's top bowler.

He survived an ambitious lbw review on 41 before bringing up his 30th Test half-century, drilling Ravi Ashwin down the ground before light rain set in.

On their return from 24 minutes off the field, following an earlier eight-minute break, Wade was undone by his natural aggression, recklessly skying a Jadeja ball to Bumrah.

Green survived 21 balls before Bumrah had him plumb lbw.

The four-Test series is locked at 1-1 after Australia won in Adelaide and India struck back at Melbourne.