|Third Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day two)|
|Australia 338: Smith 131, Labuschagne 91; Jadeja 4-62|
|India 96-2: Gill 50|
|India trail by 242 runs|
Australia’s Steve Smith ended his 16-month wait for a Test hundred on day two of a finely poised third Test against India.
Smith scored 131 from 226 balls, his first century since the fourth Ashes Test against England in September 2019.
Marnus Labuschagne made 91 but, after he fell, Smith received little support, the final seven wickets falling for 106 as the hosts were dismissed for 338.
India battled to 96-2 at the close in Sydney, 242 runs behind.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put on 70 for the opening wicket before Rohit was caught and bowled for 26 by Josh Hazlewood and Gill was caught at gully off Pat Cummins for 50, his maiden Test half-century.
The four-Test series is level at 1-1, with the final Test in Brisbane starting on 15 January.
Smith. Is. Back
No-one really doubted it, but after a lean spell Smith roared back on Friday.
The 31-year-old last week lost top spot in the Test batting rankings to New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.
Although he made two successive centuries in November in Australia’s one-day series win over India, he had managed only 10 runs in four innings in the Test series, including his first duck for four years in the second Test.
The 14 innings between centuries was the longest spell in his career since going 22 innings from debut in 2010 to maiden hundred in 2013.
He averaged 34 during his latest quiet run – a significant drop from his astonishing career average of 61.33.
Smith’s celebration upon reaching a 27th Test hundred suggested relief and frustration, rather than happiness…
‘It was nice to keep people quiet’
Smith’s response when asked about his century also suggested he was frustrated by discussions about his form.
“I’m reading lots of things people say about out of form, but think there’s a difference between out of form and out of runs,” the former Australia captain said.
“It was just nice to score a few and maybe keep a few people quiet.
“I mean, it was only about three or four weeks ago that I scored two hundreds at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So yeah, it kind of just makes me laugh sometimes when people say that kind of thing.
“I love playing here at the SCG – it’s a great place to bat. It’s my home ground and my mum and dad were here, so they were able to see that.”
Smith had not been any less relentless in his preparation before recent matches – his wife Dani posted a video of him on Instagram shadow batting in full whites in his hotel room the night before the Test…
‘You can’t cage a lion for too long – reaction to Smith’s hundred
How the day played out
Smith began the day on 31, having shown increased attacking intent at the start of his innings on the opening day. He hit five fours in his first 25 balls on day one.
He and Labuschagne took Australia from their overnight 166-2 to 206-2 before Labuschagne edged spinner Ravindra Jadeja to slip to end a partnership of 100.
Australia should have posted a more significant score but Smith could only form small partnerships with the middle and lower order as batsmen fell cheaply. Mitchell Starc, with 24, was the only other Australian to pass 20 on the day.
Smith, who spent 46 balls in the nineties, reached his hundred with a trademark clip off the pads. He received a loud ovation from the 9,000 spectators allowed inside the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Eventually he was last man out, brilliantly run out by a direct hit from square leg from Ravindra Jadeja, who also took 4-62.
In reply, Rohit and Gill – India’s third different opening partnership in three Tests – batted impressively before both fell in the space of six overs.
Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Ajinkya Rahane batted defensively until the close and, should they form a significant partnership on Saturday, India will be favourites to win this Test.
More Smith stats
- Smith’s hundred was his eighth against India. No player has more.
- Smith is the second fastest player to reach 27 Test centuries, in 136 innings. Only Sir Don Bradman got that quicker – 70 innings.
- Smith’s century took him level with Allan Border in terms of Test centuries for Australia. Only five players – Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Sir Don Bradman and Michael Clarke – have more.
- Smith’s hundred was his first in Australia since the Boxing Day Test against England in 2017, and first on home soil since the ball-tampering scandal.
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