KL Rahul (67) and Murali Vijay put on a 91-run stand for the opening wicket to lead India's fightback on Day 2 after Steve Smith's unbeaten 178 had propelled Australia to 451 all out in their first innings of the third Test at JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi. Rahul fell to a searing short delivery from Australia's comeback man Pat Cummins but Vijay (42*) and Cheteshwar Pujara (10*) made sure the Indians didn't lose any more wickets as the hosts ended the day on 120/1 in 40 overs, trailing the visitors by 331 runs.
Rahul and Vijay gave the hosts the perfect start after poor batting displays by the hosts in the opening two Tests. With still no further update on skipper Virat Kohli's shoulder injury, India needed to make a solid start.
Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood tested Vijay and Rahul for a brief period before tea but post the second session both Indian openers looked at ease. Rahul hit nine boundaries and once again looked good for a century before getting an unplayable delivery for Cummins.
Australian spinners Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon were not allowed to settle down as they both went for above three runs per over and wicket-less.
Vijay and Pujara made sure there were no more hiccups for India and put the hosts in a strong position for an assault on the Australian score on Day 3.
Skipper Smith Leads The Way
Earlier, a big century from skipper Smith led Australia to a formidable first innings total of 451.
Smith's unbeaten 178 was the bedrock of the tourists' innings which also featured a maiden Test century by all-rounder Glenn Maxwell.
After resuming in the morning on 299-4, Smith and Maxwell put on a 191-run partnership to help the tourists post the biggest innings total so far in the four-match series.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja claimed his eighth five-wicket haul in his 29th match to return with figures of five for 124.
Jadeja ran out last man Hazlewood (0) to deny Smith the chance of posting the second double century of his career.
Maxwell, 28, set the tone for Australia's continued dominance with his maiden Test century in just his fourth Test since making his debut in 2013.
India's plight was deepened by the absence of skipper Kohli who has been off the field since Thursday afternoon with an injured shoulder.
While vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane stood in for Kohli, the star batsman is expected to don the pads in what remains a crucial Test for the hosts.
The four-match series between the world's top two sides is tantalisingly poised at 1-1 with India needing at least a draw to have any chance of winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
(With AFP Inputs)