Pucovski, Labuschagne 50s put Australia on top in third Test | Daily News

Pucovski, Labuschagne 50s put Australia on top in third Test

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne plays a shot during the first day of the third cricket Test (AFP)
Australia's Marnus Labuschagne plays a shot during the first day of the third cricket Test (AFP)

Sydney, Thursday: Debutant Will Pucovski and Marnus Labuschagne smacked half-centuries as Australia recovered from an early setback to build a promising first innings in the rain-hit third Test against India Thursday.

Following David Warner's departure for five, the hosts recovered to 166 for two at stumps after more than three hours' play was lost due to persistent drizzle at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Labuschagne was not out 67 while Steve Smith, who has struggled for runs this series, hit an attacking unbeaten 31. Pucovski contributed 62 in an impressive maiden Test innings.

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.

"And then with the world-class attack that we have, we can really put them under the pump and dominate the game."

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 Smith looked in ominous touch at the other end after failing to reach double figures in his four previous innings.

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. "It was good to get a couple of boundaries early."

Pucovski resumed on 14 and Labuschagne two when play finally restarted at 3pm after the lengthy rain delay. AFP