After struggling in the first two Tests and a rain-delay in the third Test, Australian batsmen finally shone bright at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday. While as many as 35 overs were lost on day one due to the rain, debutant Will Pucovski gave ample of reasons to the hosts to smile about. The 22-year-old slammed his maiden fifty, while Marnus Labuschagne returned unbeaten on 67, to take Australia to 166-2 at stumps.
After Aussie skipper Tim Paine won the toss and opted to bat on a flat SCG deck, he would have hoped his batsmen to fire, and that is exactly what they did. Playing his first match in the series, opener David Warner looked in good touch before he was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara for 5, off Mohammad Siraj. But the early breakthrough didn’t change things much for Australia, as they kept on getting runs at a steady pace.
Labuschagne joined Pucovski and looked like wanting to make use of a good batting track. The duo started hitting boundaries at will and struck 100-run partnership in no time. Meanwhile, India was pushed on the back foot because of two missed chances by wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant — first on the bowling of R Ashwin, and then Mohammad Siraj. But after getting two reprieves, debutant Navdeep Saini got rid of Pucovski for 62. A fuller-length delivery came back in sharply to the batsman, and struck right in the middle of centre.
With the score reading 106-2, India would have hoped to pull a few things back, but that was not to be. Steve Smith, who had looked rusty so far in the Test series, smacked a few boundaries against Saini, and then R Ashwin as well. Combining well with Smith, Labushagne too brought up his ninth fifty. With no purchase from the pitch, Indian bowlers, though kept it tight, but struggled to create chances.
In a surprise move, India skipper Ajinkya Rahane under-bowled Ravindra Jadeja, who got some spin in the last few overs of the day. He only bowled three and gave away two runs.