Cheteshwar Pujara overtook Rahul Dravid to spend the longest innings by an Indian while constructing a patient 199-run stand with ton-up Wriddhiman Saha before Ravindra Jadeja mauled Australia with both bat and ball to hand India the winning advantage on the fourth day of the third Test in Ranchi. (Day 4 Highlights)
At stumps, Australia were quickly down to 23/2 within eight overs after India declared at 603/9. The tourists trail India by 129 runs but going by the spin extracted by Jadeja from the rough with the new ball, Australia would have to pull off a miracle on the fifth day to evade defeat. (Day 4 scorecard)
If India manage to win this Test, it will be because Pujara showed them the virtue of playing time. India batted for 210 overs for their first innings total with Pujara alone consuming 525 balls. Having featured with Pujara in a match-winning 316-run partnership at the Irani Cup final against Gujarat earlier this year, Saha too was no stranger to his ways.
So, together they got down to dig India out of a hole and put them on ascent. India were still trailing Australia by 91 runs at the start of a very overcast morning session and the visitors were probably looking to keep India down to a manageable lead. But instead of scoring quickly, Pujara and Saha chose the time-tested theory of wearing down the opposition.
Not going to bow out easily, Australia unleashed a barrage of bouncers especially at Saha but the duo took everything thrown at them to spend two wicketless sessions that produced 75 and 68 runs respectively. It slowly caused Australia to wilt as they started to err due to the mounting pressure.
Matthew Wade dropped Saha on 51 before Australia wasted two reviews on him. Both stemmed from frustration. The first occasion --- on the cusp of lunch --- saw Saha’s bat hitting the ground while sweeping but Wade was convinced he had edged it. The second review was even more desperate as Saha had clearly been hit on the chest by Pat Cummins but Australia captain Steve Smith was ready to take his chances.
Unlike Australia, both Pujara and Saha were rewarded for using their reviews judiciously. The cumulative effect of dropped catches and wasted reviews took a toll on Australia as they looked wearied by the time India had taken the lead just after lunch. From then on there was no looking back for India.
Pujara departed on 202 after tea, playing probably his first reckless shot of the day before Saha too left trying a lofted shot. But India’s target got a timely boost with Jadeja’s arrival. Not wasting time, Jadeja quickly got down to the business of tearing apart a jaded Australia bowling. With Umesh Yadav, he raised 54 runs for the ninth wicket as well as scoring a handsome fifty that prompted Jadeja to do the familiar sword routine again. But that was only the first part of Jadeja’s show.
Virat Kohli declared as soon as India crossed the 600-run mark and straightaway gave the new ball to R Ashwin with two slips, silly mid-off and a short-leg. Ashwin was spanked for two boundaries but Jadeja hit back by first uprooting David Warner’s off stump with a ball pitched in the rough before beating nightwatchman Nathan Lyon’s bat to give Australia a sign of things to come on the fifth day.