Cheteshwar Pujara batted an entire day to graft a century India needed to stay in pursuit of Australia’s first innings total of 451. At stumps on the third day of the third Test on Saturday, India were 360/6, trailing by 91 runs in the first innings with Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha unbeaten on 130 and 18 respectively. (Day 3 blog)
Pujara’s century was a well-constructed masterpiece that took some time to get going. But once the second new ball was given to Pat Cummins, Pujara shifted gears decisively. It was the same new ball though that got rid of two India mainstays in a crucial afternoon session. (Day 3 scorecard)
Cummins first lured Virat Kohli into a wide delivery and he edged a drive to Steve Smith at second slip. Ajinkya Rahane then tried to play a ramp shot against a slow bouncer that should have been left alone. It ended in a simple nick to the ‘keeper.
VIJAY’S RUSH OF BLOOD
Those two dismissals threatened to derail India’s progress after a nearly perfect morning session where the hosts scored only 73 runs but lost Murali Vijay on the verge of lunch. Playing in his 50th Test after returning from a shoulder injury, Vijay was largely successful in not letting spinners Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon get an upper hand.
Having lifted O’Keefe for a six over long-on in the second over of the day, Vijay thought he could probably close out the first session in similar fashion.
This time though, O’Keefe’s delivery hardly spun as it went through the gap between Vijay’s bat and pad to allow Matthew Wade to effect an easy stumping.
TWO BIG PARTNERSHIPS
By then though, India had got two big partnerships on the board. After the 91-run opening stand on the second day, Vijay had combined with Pujara to raise 102 runs for the second wicket. Kohli’s dismissal could have proved crucial but Rahane’s 33-ball 14 allowed India to motor on. Pujara too had started playing his shots by then.
After flicking a full toss from Cummins through midwicket for a boundary, Pujara took two more in his next over --- a fine glance almost off his ribs followed by a punch through point. Two boundaries by Rahane --- driving Nathan Lyon through extra-cover before pulling Josh Hazlewood --- gave hope that this could turn out to be the defining partnership of the innings. It however didn’t go beyond 51 runs.
India were still on track for a good finish as they added 110 runs in the second session. Yet another partnership looked like blooming between Pujara and Karun Nair. But it was snapped by Hazlewood, who broke through Nair’s defence with an incoming delivery. Like a bad dream, Cummins haunted India again with a sharp, rising delivery. R Ashwin managed to sway out of the way, but it still kissed his glove.
Pujara was calm despite the dismissals, choosing to go after only the wide deliveries. While it kept him in good stead for better returns on Sunday, India’s scoring rate took a beating after tea. Saha came out to knock around three boundaries in his 42-ball 18, but India managed only 57 runs in 31 overs in the post-tea session, leaving the Test finely poised.