x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Cricket: Australia are back in business against India

Australia put their off-field troubles to one side against India and Sri Lanka look to shine against Bangladesh.

Australia put their well publicised off-field problems to one side yesterday as they put in an encouraging batting performance before late wickets saw India fightback in Mohali.

Openers Ed Cowan (86) and Dave Warner (71) put on 139 for the first wicket, and then Steve Smith, playing his first Test since 2011, struck an unbeaten 58 as Australia made 273 for seven on the second day of the third Test after the first day had been washed out.

After a week of negative headlines with James Pattinson, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson not considered for selection for disciplinary reasons, Australia had plenty to ponder going into the match, already trailing 2-0 in the best of four series.

Cowan said he had changed his approach to playing India's spinners after the first two Tests, and a more patient approach had paid off as he looked to explain his improvement in form, having scored just 109 runs in his first four innings in the series.

"My plans have almost come full circle, coming over here I had it in my mind I needed to put pressure on the spinners by attacking them … and I have come full circle in how I want to bat and that's fighting and grinding them out and if it takes a full day to get 86 or 50 it doesn't matter, my job in these conditions is to bat as long as I can and almost take the runs out of it, he told The Australian.

''Bat for time and soak up balls, we have a lot of strokemakers. My game plan has changed I guess from putting pressure on them to putting pressure on them by not letting them get me out."

Australia had looked set for a sizeable score thanks to the efforts of Cowan and Warner, but they then collapsed, losing seven wickets for 134 runs before the close.

But the wicket that particularly pleased the Indians was that of Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, who was dismissed first ball, stumped by MS Dhoni off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.

Jadeja proved to be the pick of the India attack, taking three for 56, and the left-arm spinner said in the post-day press conference: "It's a very important wicket because if you allow him to settle down, he can make big scores. So I am very thrilled."

Jadeja added that if India are to hold out hopes of winning the match with three days remaining then they needed to polish off Australia's last three wickets when play resumes today.

"The aim is to not let them score enough runs, we would look to take the remaining three wickets as soon as possible so that we get enough time to bat", he said.

"We have got to take the last three wickets, bat well and look to take a big first innings lead. If we have a big lead it will be easier for us to bowl (in Australia's second innings)."