Smith in charge as Australia stretch lead over India to 276

Sydney (AFP) –


Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne scored battling half-centuries to stretch Australia's lead over India Sunday to 276 and put them in pole position to win the third Test and go 2-1 up in the series.

Resuming day four in Sydney at 103 for two, the hosts reached 182 for four at lunch with first innings century-maker Smith unbeaten on 58 and Cameron Green 20, leaving captain Tim Paine to ponder when to declare.

Labuschagne was one of two wickets to fall, departing for a well-constructed 73 after his first innings 91, caught by substitute wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha off Navdeep Saini.

Matthew Wade was out for four, with Saini and Saha again doing the damage.

After India were bowled out for 244 in reply to Australia's 338, Labuschagne resumed on 47 and Smith 29 with India needing an early breakthrough to keep their hopes of winning alive.

Labuschagne should have fallen second ball, but an appalling error by Hanuma Vihari left bowler Jasprit Bumrah clutching his face in disbelief.

Labuschagne flicked a straight delivery to square leg at knee height for what should have been a regulation catch, but it somehow hit Vihari's wrist and went to ground.

It was another setback for a side without the spin of dynamic allrounder Ravindra Jadeja after he was hit on the left thumb while batting on Saturday.

He didn't take the field with Indian media saying it was dislocated and he would only bat "if required", with the injury likely to rule him out of the fourth Test next week.

Rishabh Pant also took a nasty blow to his elbow while batting and was another no-show with Saha keeping wicket instead.

However, his injury was not believed to be as bad as Jadeja and he was expected to bat through the pain in their run chase.

Labuschagne brought up back-to-back 50s with a single off Bumrah and looked comfortable until Saini snapped his 103-run partnership with Smith.

It proved slow going for Smith as India found variable bounce to make life tough.

But following his first innings' 131, he kept his focus to notch another half-century, ably accompanied by Green, with his eyes on a 28th ton.