Will Pucovski (right) and Marnus Labuschagne during play on day one of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday. AP
Gulf Today Report
After an early departure of David Warner for five, debutant Will Pucovski and Marnus Labuschagne struck rollicking half-centuries to steady the innings on the opening day of the rain-hit third Test match against India on Thursday.
The hosts recovered from an early setback to 166 for two at stumps after more than three hours' play was lost due to persistent drizzle at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Pucovski rode his luck for his 62 but his partnership of 100 with Marnus Labuschagne 67 not out for the second wicket established a solid platform for the hosts.
Steve Smith reached double figures for the first time this series with an attacking unbeaten 31.
Fellow debutant Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj, in only his second Test, shared the wickets in a clash both sides are desperate to win with the four-match series level at 1-1.
After captain Tim Paine won the toss and chose to bat in front of 8,692 socially-distanced fans, just under the quarter of capacity allowed, the rain started falling 35 minutes into the opening session.
It was enough time for Siraj to grab the key wicket of Warner on his return from injury, caught by Cheteshwar Pujara to put Australia on the back foot.
But a 100-run partnership between Pucovski and Labuschagne swung the momentum back in Australia's favour before the 22-year-old fell lbw to Saini.
"It was a pretty incredible experience, it meant everything to me to be honest," said Pucovski on making his debut.
"It was a very nice batting wicket and I'm hopeful with the amount of batting that's in now and what we've got to come that we can post a really good total."
The patient Labuschagne, who has been Australia's best batsman this series, survived an edge off Jasprit Bumrah on 11, which just failed to carry to slip, but was otherwise authoritative.
He brought up his ninth Test 50 with a boundary off Siraj, while ominously Smith looked to have regained his touch at the other end.
The former captain hit five boundaries in his 31 which came off 64 balls.
"Nice to spend a bit of time out there and nice to stitch in a partnership with Marnus," said Smith.
Siraj said the Indian bowlers had found it tough to make headway on the Sydney wicket.
"It is a flat wicket and good to bat on. Our plan was to build pressure and hit the area," he said.
"The wicket is easy for the batsman. Even the bouncer is not working." Dropped catches Pucovski resumed on 14 and Labuschagne two when play finally restarted at 3pm after the lengthy rain delay.
Australia have high hopes for Pucovski, who scored two double centuries in the Sheffield Shield this season but had been sidelined with a concussion, the ninth of his short career.
India tried to unsettle him early on with short balls and he rode his luck, being dropped twice.
The first came on 26 when Ravi Ashwin enticed a thin edge, only for wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant to miss what should have been a simple catch.
Three overs later and Pant did it again.
Pucovski, on 32, got a glove to a rising Siraj ball and as Pant dived, the ball popped out of his hand. He made another grab and seemed to have caught it, but replays showed the ball hit the ground first.
He then survived a run-out opportunity after a misunderstanding with Labuschagne, but refocused to bring up his 50 with a boundary off Saini.
But Saini, in the team for the injured Umesh Yadav, finally snared his first Test wicket, trapping Pucovski to snap what was shaping as a dangerous partnership.
Veteran Warner missed the first two Tests in Adelaide and Melbourne with a groin injury and his return was highly anticipated. But he didn't last long.
He showed intent with a two off his first ball but his natural aggression quickly brought him undone, swinging at a full Siraj delivery which took at outside edge and flew to Pujara at slip.
Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur, in just his second Test, put on 123 runs for the seventh wicket — a record for India at the Gabba — taking their team from a precarious 186 for seven to 309 before Thakur was bowled by Pat Cummins for an entertaining 67.
India were 321-7 at stumps with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja proving his worth for the second straight day of his international return with an unbeaten 66.
India won their fourth series in a row against Australia after a fourth and final Test lit up by an epic 186 by Virat Kohli ended in a draw on Monday in Ahmedabad.
India, leading 2-1 in the series, struggled to make runs and lost crucial wickets early in the day, including skipper Virat Kohli who failed to score. But Pant put on 113 for the seventh wicket with Sundar to hit back after the England bowlers reduced India to 146 for six at one stage.
Iga Swiatek cruised past Coco Gauff on Wednesday to reach the French Open semi-finals where she will face Beatriz Haddad Maia, the first Brazilian woman to make the last four of a Grand Slam in 55 years.
"(I decided) to leave Europe, it's true that I had offers from another European team but I didn't even think about it because in Europe, my idea was only to go to Barcelona."
Sri Lanka eased to 120 with 34 overs to spare in Hambantota, after a fast-bowling attack led by man-of-the-match Dushmantha Chameera had demolished the hapless Afghan top order.