Australia have won the toss and chose to bat first in Sydney. They will have a complete change in the opening partnership. Dave Warner came back to play through the pain barrier. He was unable to play for weeks via groin strain.
Joining Warner is youngster Will Pucovski from Victoria. He is 22 years old having proved himself with consistent runs at state level. Despite the only drawback is the series of concussions. He will take place of Joe Burns who was inconsistent lately. While Matthew Wade did okay as a fill-in Opener. But returns to bat at No.5.
India have the early upper hand when they took advantage of Warner. It seems the gamble to play as half fit initially have backfired. Hard to see that happen. But basically no footwork there. Except when Warner reached out for the ball. And sent an edge to Cheteshwar Pujara at 2nd slip.
Then the rain came in to halt the action in the middle. Australia remains 21-1 without Dave Warner. So India have won the opening few minutes. Even though the away side lost the toss. And took a great look of this batsman’s weakness. Play still unable resume going into lunch. But finally rain stopped around 2-2.30 pm local time. It took half an hour to dry & pull the covers away. Before they resumed play at 3pm.
Will Pucovski may have picked up some mistakes along the way. It is part and parcel of learning your first day as a International player. Rather than a state player facing the opposition within the country. But he survived a few missed chances from India. And hung in there with redemption to keep his shot selection down low. That helped him earn his way towards his maiden Test 50. As well as looking after Marnus Labuschagne. So the partnership can be big & competitive.
Australia have reached past the 100 run mark just after tea. And India finally got the breakthrough on Pucovski (62). Well gutted to see Will mistimed that shot towards square/leg side. At the same time there is another maiden occasion with the ball. That goes to Navdeep Saini who bowled a brilliant full length targeting off stump. 100% impossible to overturn this.
Marnus Labschagne stayed on and remained content with his shots. It is not always high risk. The balance is in the middle ground to convert these shots into runs. Before Marnus backed up his half-ton. While Steve Smith replaced Will as his new partner at 4. This time he escaped a string of single figure falls. And returned the form around into his permanent class.
Smith reached his 20s run mark when the 50 partnership is up with Marnus. As well as reached 160 for Australia. They will pick up tomorrow AM at 166-2 & 55 overs in. With both men (Steve Smith 31* & Marnus Labuschagne 67*) still intact.
Australia may have not fired off with the gamble of half-fit Dave Warner. He may be one of the experienced guys in this squad. Having played well against India before. And is good v the spinners. But his today. They moved on swiftly regardless of the situation interrupted throughout today. Then you see a few rewarding guys earn their need or runs. Will Pucovski is such a no brainer in the opening role.
Will must have prepared very well. Despite a history of consussions & near dismissals going on against him. He never game up until the very end with a half-ton. And this is very promising stuff from the boy. I cannot say more than high enough as well for Marnus. His batting placement is always red ball quality based on the consistency. Marnus too followed Will towards his half-ton. And he will continue to be a fabric of this test squad at No.3.
I also am glad the selectors/coach gave Steve Smith another chance. He may not have scored the runs deserved so far. But Steve have benefitted from the changes after the 2nd Test. Especially with Warner now back in. And you got a resurgence Smudgey using his footwork to work off the field. That is how he defied class over form. He is not out just yet so work still needed to complete. Before celebrations begin when Smith earns his 50 &/or 100.
India on the other hand have found a way to get around Warner. They know his weaknesses with the bat. And able to plot this one well. Thanks to Mo Siraj with the full wide length towards the keeper. The line and speed justified enough for Warner to play that edge. And it worked very well.
But they are unable to hold on for most of the time. Especially when they thought another scalp is coming. And that target would be Will Pucovski. He is the one who is very new to the International game. But the fielders did not take advantage of this via the missed chances. And it helped the batsman earn his way towards a 1st 50.
The away side eventually caught Will red handed with the LBW. But it is still not enough to stop the runs. And profit this as early wickets. India threw bad balls on areas Marnus is good at. As well as Steve Smith who is a brilliant placement player around the ground. Even though they got him on the cheap very recently. But they saw a different side of Smith this afternoon. Better for India to get back to basics. And do not change when the areas are good. Then turn up the ante to give Marnus & Smith some pressure. It will be the only way to split this stand in half.