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 day two 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 131 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 Australia 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 chance to remove Rohit Sharma for 26. Pujara was lucky to survive an lbw review on three when he padded up to Nathan Lyon, as India scored just 12 runs from the final 15 overs of the day.

But 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.

Smith made a point of playing more positively after being dismissed cheaply in the first two Tests, driving gloriously down the ground throughout his knock. The 31-year-old then took that to extremes late, with his last 27 runs coming from 14 balls before a superb Ravindra Jadeja direct hit ran him out and ended Australia’s innings.

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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.

Australia were at one stage 2-206 off the back of debutant Will Pucovski’s 62 when Marnus Labuschagne was caught at first slip on 91. Labuschagne barely looked troubled before Jadeja got his edge, bringing to an end a 100-run stand with Smith.

It kickstarted a collapse of five wickets for 72 runs, which included a loose shot from Matt Wade on 13 when he jumped down the deck to Jadeja and got a leading edge. Cameron Green (0) and Tim Paine (1) both fell to Bumrah inswingers, before Cummins was also bowled for Jadeja for a duck.

A win for India in Sydney would be enough for them to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.



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