India's bowlers were ineffective on a flat pitch and against a top quality batting line-up as the hosts batted themselves into a position of strength. Overnight batsmen Steve Smith (82 not out) and Shane Watson (61 not out) would be eager to come and pile on more agony on the tourists. (SCORECARD | Highlights)
12:02 AM IST: DROPPED! Umesh got Watson to edge one at the fag end of the day but Ashwin managed to drop at slips. STUMPS! Australia 348/2.
11:55 AM IST: This has been a polished batting performance by the hosts. They were dealt a couple of blows at a crucial juncture but the captain and the senior most guy in the team have done well to lead the recovery.
11:24 AM IST: The day is drawing to a close and it could be safe to say that the Indian bowlers have not bowled at the right areas. But to be fair to them, it has been a very, very flat deck and they have been up against some very good batsmen. Australia are in a dominant position but it could have well been India had Virat Kohli been lucky at the toss.
11:15 AM IST: India have taken the second new ball. So this is the situation is this: Watson and Smith have added over 100 for the third wicket. More importantly, India's pacers have lacked teeth. So what does Kohli hope to achieve with the new cherry on a flat pitch?
11:12 AM IST: FIFTY for Watson, his 24th in Test cricket. This has been a fine effort from a man who has faced severe criticism for his poor returns with the bat. However, Watson himself would be the first to admit that a mere half-century won't do him any good. He needs to reach a 100 and silence his critics. Australia 317/2.
10:48 AM IST: Smith has had a terrific series - he had led from the front, scored runs and marshaled his resources expertly. His innings today was another example of his class. The Aussies had lost two set batsmen in the space of four runs and were looking vulnerable before Smith came in and played a majestic knock.
10:33 AM IST: Fifty for Smith, his 10th. Australia are in the driver's seat at 280/2 as India continue to search for wickets.
10:29 AM IST: As the Australian innings gathers more momentum, here's an interesting fact : Chris Rogers is the first Australian opener to hit five fifties without reaching 100 inÂ series. He was out for 95 today.
10:28 AM IST: There is nothing in this pitch for the bowlers; Ashwin has managed some purchase but he has only one wicket to show for his efforts.
10:14 AM IST: India need to strike early in the third session or Australia will run away again - they are in a pretty dominant position already and if the stand between Watson and Smith blossoms, there could be further trouble for the tourists.
10:08 AM IST: Play has resumed after tea. Ashwin bowled a maiden to Watson while Shami conceded just one in his first over of the final session. Sanjay Manjrekar makes some important points on air. He said players should be picked purely on domestic performances and not on potential alone. "Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron were picked for their pace clearly that has not worked. The boys at the domestic level, who are taking wickets are obviously doing the right things, bowling six balls in the right areas outside off-stump." Hopefully, the selectors listen and pay heed to these words.
9:42 AM IST: Tea and Australia are 242/2. Smith is unbeaten on 28 and he will be key to the final session of the day when play resumes.
9:32 AM IST: Australia have scored over 100 runs in the second session but India managed to dismiss two set batsmen. This has been an even passage of play so far but a lot would depend on how the final session shapes up. Can India take Steve Smith out early and put some pressure on the Aussie middle order?
9:20 AM IST: Another good stand building up between Smith and Watson. But after the Warner fireworks, the crowd could be drawn into a but of a lull. His was a gem of a knock, battling raw emotions and memories of a fallen mate.
9:06 AM IST: This has been a good comeback by India but the pacers need to be careful about their line now - a few loose balls could let the Aussies run away again. Watson and Smith are dangerous batsmen who can explode and derail the Indians all over again.
8:54 AM IST: WICKET! Another one down. Shami has knocked off Rogers for 95. Australia lose two wickets in the space of four runs, bringing in two new batsmen at the crease. Can Kohli go for the kill here, put the hosts under some pressure?
8:44 AM IST: WICKET! Finally, a breakthrough for India. Ashwin has removed Warner for 101 off 116 balls as Australia reach 200/1. The ball turned and took the leading edge on Warner's bat - Vijay took a good catch at gully. Now for Shane Watson to make an impression. Perfect platform for him.
8:28 AM IST: Warner brings up his 12th ton, 3rd of the series. What a player he is. Australia are 187/0 against a hapless India. The match is slipping away from Kohli really fast here.
8:24 AM IST: David Warner hammers Kumar for two straight boundaries to get into the 90s. This is terrific batting and incredibly poor bowling. Kumar and Co. have shown exactly how not to bowl to their fields.
8:08 AM IST: India have been hit hard by the force of this opening combination. Warner has attacked and Rogers has consolidated. Not one bowler has had any answers to the duo. The Aussies are racing away with the game here - both men are finding the gaps easily as Kohli too chooses to stick to an attacking field. These tactics have clearly not worked yet.
7:52 AM IST: FOUR! Warner cracks his 10th boundary of this innings; 40 of his 68 runs have come in boundaries. FOUR! And another one as Umesh Yadav refuses to learn his lessons - he's bowling short and wide outside the off stump.
7:45 AM IST: India have resumed after lunch but the pacers somehow refuse to be probing - there has been no consistency with the line and lengths they have bowled today.
7:02 AM IST: LUNCH is taken soon after Rogers brings up his fifth successive fifty and 10th overall. What a session this has been for Australia - 123 runs have come off 28 overs. Warner is looking destructive and India are likely to have another long session.
6:55 AM IST: Warner reaches 63 not out and he bends down to kiss the pitch and then looks heavenwards. The crowd is on its feet.
6:52 AM IST: A lot of turn from Ashwin - the ball is spinning and bouncing sharply. That tells you what the Indian batsmen could have in store for them, especially because they will bat last in this Test match.
6:40 AM IST: Warner got a leg bye on 62 and the crowd started applauding thinking he was on 63 - the score Hughes was on before he tragically passed away.
6:26 AM IST: David Warner slams his 14th fifty in 36 matches as Australia roar away to 96/0 in the 19th over. This has been fantastic batting by the Aussie, putting India under enormours pressure.
6:23 AM IST: Good over from Ashwin after Umesh leaked heavy runs in the 17th over. Australia are racing away here and Kohli is clueless. The pacers have continued to bowl poorly on this tour and this session has so far gone completely Australia's way.
6:08 AM IST: India have steadily let any advantage they could have had slip away. The openers needed to watch out the first hour but they raced away to a healthy total. As the day progresses, it could be a great pitch to bat on. The new ball did create some problems early on but nothing alarming any way. What can Kohli do here?
6:05 AM IST: Meanwhile, there was another outpouring of emotions from the Aussie cricketers over their fallen mate Hughes. A plaque was installed in his honour at the SCG. The Australian cricketers are playing here for the first time since Hughes' death in November.
6:03 AM IST: End of the first hour and Australia are 72/0. India have failed to bowl to plans in the first hour, allowing both Warner and Rogers plenty of scoring opportunities.
5:57 AM IST: Rogers and Warner are both nicely settled now. There have been some good deliveries from the Indians but they have largely been ineffective, bowling poor lengths to two very good batsmen. There is not much a captain can do if the bowlers continue to bowl poorly.
5:37 AM IST: DROPPED! Shami got Rogers to edge and Lokesh Rahul lets it go. He was immediately comforted by Saha and Raina but this could be a costly miss for India. Rogers thanks Rahul by smashing the next ball to the fence
5:30 AM IST: Excellent over from Shami. He gave away five runs but generated good pace and bounce, making the Aussie openers uncomfortable.
5:25 AM IST: Australia are off to a flierÂ - 39/0 off 5 overs. India have just not bowled well. Kohli had defended his bowlers on the eve of the match and asked people not to be too harsh on them. Here, they have continued to let him down.
5:17 AM IST: Virat Kohli is talking again, but only to his bowlers - he is a vocal fielder and he will be a vocal captain. However, he will be disappointed with the line Kumar has bowled so far. Umesh has not looked great either. Kohli will need his bowlers to back him up today.
5:10 AM IST: Australia are 14/0 off 2 overs and the dangerous Warner has got 9 of them. He is a dangerous cricketer and it is an am emotional Test match for him. SCG is where Phillip Hughes was felled by a bouncer and Warner was one of his closest friends. Can he make a big impact here?
5:05 AM IST: Australia are in business straightway - openers Rogers and Warner have looked full of purpose and Australia are 6/0 off the first over bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
4:55 AM IST: Steve Smith is captaining in his home ground and he says it is a great honour. Virat Kohli says SCG is a historic ground and it is special to play that. "Starting as full time captain here, couldn't be better. Captaincy helps me focus on my batting," says Kohli.
4:51 AM IST: Hint of grass on the pitch and no batsman should be bothered, says Sunil Gavaskar in his pitch report. There will be a bit of turn too, the former India captain says of the surface. It is a very hot day in Sydney and the cracks are going to open up.
4:43 AM IST: Playing XI:
Australia: DA Warner, CJL Rogers, SR Watson, SPD Smith (Captain), SE Marsh, JA Burns, BJ Haddin (WK), MA Starc, RJ Harris, NM Lyon, JR Hazlewood
India: M Vijay, KL Rahul, RG Sharma, V Kohli (Captain), AM Rahane, SK Raina, WP Saha (WK), R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, UT Yadav, B Kumar
4:40 AM IST: Australia have won the toss and decided to bat in the final Test. Massive changes for India, who have dropped Dhawan and Pujara. Ishant Sharma is also out and in come Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha, who was a given after MS Dhoni announced his retirement from Test cricket.
India will play for pride in Sydney. Australia have been virtually unbeatable here, having won 10 of their last 11 Tests at the SCG. They may have pocketed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but Sydney will be a special game for the home team. The Aussies return to the venue where Phillip Hughes was fatally struck by a bouncer last month.
Brad Haddin, Nathan Lyon, Shane Watson and David Warner were fielding at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Hughes sustained the sickening blow to his neck, never regaining consciousness and eventually passing away three days before his 26th birthday. Australia coped well with the tragedy to take an unassailable 2-0 lead against India and coach Darren Lehmann is in no doubt that emotion will run high. Winning will be the perfect gift for Hughes.
Stories of dressing room rifts will take a backseat when Kohli goes out to toss. This match could see new players in new positions. There is news that Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan may make way for Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina. Lokesh Rahul, who made an unimpressive debut at Melbourne, may open the batting with Murali Vijay.
Kohli has some personal milestones in sight. Should he score a century in Sydney, he will join Herbert Sutcliffe and Wally Hammond as the only visiting batsmen to make four hundreds in one Test series in Australia. The Aussies will do everything to get under his skin.
Sydney has some bitter memories for Team India. The Monekygate row and Fingergate (featuring Kohli) are as fresh in memory like the defeats in each of the two occasions India have played here.
Australia will not disturb a winning combination. Left arm quick Mitchell Starc will replace injured seamer Mitchell Johnson. Starc, who took two wickets and hit a 50 in the four-wicket victory over India in the second Test at the Gabba in Brisbane, was named ahead of fellow quick Peter Siddle and the spin option of Ashton Agar. The tall 24-year-old has taken 45 wickets in his 14 previous Tests.