Opener Lokesh Rahul struck a fluent half-century to lead a strong Indian reply after Australia skipper Steve Smith’s marathon knock helped the visitors post a formidable 451 in the third Test Friday.

The hosts were 120 for one at stumps in Ranchi, with Murali Vijay (42) and Cheteshwar Pujara (10) batting at the break. India still trail the visitors by 331 in their first innings.

Earlier, Smith’s unbeaten 178 was the bedrock of the tourists’ innings which also featured a maiden Test century by allrounder Glenn Maxwell.

b”KL Rahul’s fifty gave India a good start. BCCI”

In reply, Rahul (67) showed resolve against a probing Australian pace attack before falling to Pat Cummins on a sharp rising delivery that got the batsman’s gloves for an easy catch to the wicketkeeper.

Rahul, who hit 9 fours in his 102-ball stay, registered his fourth fifty of the series to put on 91 runs with opening partner Vijay.

After Rahul’s departure, Vijay took control with Pujara for company as the duo played out the rest of the day with some assured stroke-making.

Josh Hazlewood and Cummins, who is making a return after playing just one Test for Australia, back in 2011, worked up good pace on what still seems a decent batting wicket.

Earlier, with Australia resuming the day 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.

b’Ravindra Jadeja helped India force Australia to fold for less than what they were expected to. BCCI’

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja claimed his eighth five-wicket haul in his 29th match to return with figures of 5-124.

Jadeja ran out last man Hazlewood (0) to deny Smith the chance of posting the second double century in his 53rd match of his career.

Smith though registered the highest score by an Australian captain on Indian soil after surpassing Michael Clarke’s 130 in Chennai in the 2012-13 series.

But it was the 28-year-old Maxwell who set the tone for Australia’s continued dominance with his first Test ton in just his fourth game since making his debut in 2013.

India’s plight was deepened by the absence of skipper Virat Kohli who has been off the field since Thursday afternoon with an injured shoulder.

While vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane stood in for Kohli but the star batsman is expected to don the pads and bat in what remains a crucial Test for the hosts.

The 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.

Feature image source: BCCI