Steve Smith’s first Test century on home soil in three years has the third Test hanging in the balance, with India 96-2 after second day in reply to Australia’s 338.
With the four-match series tied at 1-1, Smith watched wickets tumble around him as he broke his century drought with an almost chanceless 133 at the SCG. Pat Cummins then bowled superbly late to finish with 1-19, regularly beating the outside edge in his 12 overs as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane battled to stumps.
The Australian quick removed Shubman Gill at gully for 50, just as the classy young opener looked set to put India in the box seat as he pounced on anything short. Josh Hazlewood (1-23) claimed the other scalp of the afternoon, taking a low caught and bowled to remove Rohit Sharma for 26.
Friday belonged to Smith, whose century marked his first Test ton in Australia since the ball-tampering scandal and his first anywhere in 16 months. The former captain celebrated his 27th hundred in passionate style, twice thrusting his bat in the air in a mix of relief and jubilation.
The 31-year-old’s last 27 runs came from from 14 balls before a superb Ravindra Jadeja direct hit ran him out and ended Australia’s innings. Smith’s century went some way toward fixing Australia’s batting woes against the tourists.
In his absence two summers ago, not one Australian passed 100 in the historic 2-1 home series loss to India. His triple figures on Friday helped them to their biggest score of the summer so far, as the hosts went past 200 for the first time this series.
But coach Justin Langer will still feel frustrated as no batsmen below him could stick around long as Jadeja claimed 4-62 and Jasprit Bumrah 2-66.