Riding his luck, debutant Will Pucovski combined with Marnus Labuschagne to put Australia on top on the first day of the Pink Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
While Pucovski did bring up a fifty on debut, he did get a few chances to help prolong his stay in the middle. In the 21st over of the innings, wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant dropped a regulation chance off the bowling of Ravichandran Ashwin and India lost an opportunity to put the hosts in a spot of bother.
The misery for Pant did not end there, as he dropped another catch off the bowling of Mohammad Siraj, and as a result, Pucovski got his second reprieve of the day.
Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, who had earlier called for Pant's inclusion in the Indian team, was disappointed by the wicket-keeper batsman's glovework.
The former skipper raised the question and said Pant should have taken those catches.
"The one's (dropped catches) today are two that should be taken, simple as that. It's probably lucky for Rishabh that Pucovski didn't go on and make a big hundred or a double hundred and looking at the wicket, it looks like an unbelievable surface," cricket.com.au quoted Ponting as saying.
"I'm sure when Rishabh put those catches down, he would have thought the worst and 'here we go, he's really going to make me pay' but (Pucovski) didn't today," he added.
Pant was on the receiving end of flak from his Delhi Capitals head coach. Ponting said since Pant's debut he has dropped more catches than any other wicket-keeper in the world.
"I've said it all along, the knock-on Rishabh is always going to be on his keeping. Since his debut in Test cricket, he's dropped more catches than any other keeper in the world. That highlights he has got some work to do with his keeping," said Ponting.
"Very impressed with Will Pucovski's innings today. To look the part at Test level on debut is a promising sign and rapt for him to breakthrough after the setbacks he's had along the way. #AUSvIND," Ponting tweeted.
The opener kept riding his luck and after a couple of catching chances, he looked ready to get run out after a miscommunication with Labuschagne. But a poor throw from Jasprit Bumrah who slipped while picking up the ball, saved him again.
Earlier, rain had forced an early lunch and David Warner's wicket was the only gain for India after Tim Paine won the toss and decided to bat at the historic SCG.
With rain and a wet outfield playing spoilsport in the second session as well, almost two hours were lost. Finally back on the ground -- with the score on 21/1 -- Pucovski and Labuschagne mixed caution with aggression and the duo saw off some impeccable deliveries being bowled by the Indian bowling attack. But the duo also made sure they capitalized on the loose balls being bowled and as a result, both batsmen kept the scoreboard moving.
The second session also saw Indian pacers bowling on the shorter side, and as a result, Pucovski and Labuschagne had no problems in either leaving the ball or getting behind the line to defend it.
In the final session of the day, Australia lost Pucovski who became the first Test scalp of debutant Navdeep Saini. The 22-year-old got out lbw after scoring 62 runs in the 110 deliveries he faced during the course of his innings.
Steve Smith, who had struggled in the first two Tests, came out with a positive intent this time around and scored quite a few boundaries and didn't let the Indian bowlers, particularly Ashwin, dictate terms.
Along with Labuschagne, the duo added 60 runs for third wicket and laid a solid platform for the hosts to set a huge first-innings total.
Gritty half centuries from Marnus Labuschagne and debutant opener Will Pucovski on Thursday put Australia ahead on the rain-hit opening day of the third Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Australia ended Day One at 166/2 in 55 overs that could be bowled because of rain. At Stumps, Labuschagne and Steve Smith remained unbeaten on 67 and 31.
Brief scores: 166/2 at Stumps on Day One (Marnus Labuschagne 67*, Will Pucovski 62; Navdeep Saini 1/32)