Cheteshwar Pujara hits the nets in Rajkot as India's top-order crumbles | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Cheteshwar Pujara hits the nets in Rajkot as India's top-order crumbles in 3rd Test vs England

Feb 15, 2024 02:51 PM IST

Pujara was preparing for Saurashtra's next Ranji Trophy game against Manipur set to take place at the C ground of the Niranjan Shah Cricket Stadium on Friday.

Cheteshwar Pujara hit the nets in the practice area of the Niranjan Shah Stadium in Rajkot, the same venue where the India vs England third Test is currently going on. As ironic as it may sound, when Pujara started batting in the nets, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja were battling hard in the middle to bring India back into the contest. On a placid track, Mark Wood and Tom Hartley had run through India's top order in the first hour of play on Day 1.

Saurashtra's batter Cheteshwar Pujara(PTI)
Saurashtra's batter Cheteshwar Pujara(PTI)

The inexperienced batting line-up with two players on debut and another one on his second Test, was up against it. And fans could not help but think about Pujara. The right-hander, who used to be India's rock at No.3 for more than a decade has been dropped from the side since the World Test Championship final against Australia last year. Shubman Gill has been India's No.3 since the West Indies tour but his returns have been rather unsatisfactory.

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Under immense pressure, Gil did hit a century in the second innings in the Visakhapatnam Test but apart from that, he doesn't even have a half-century to his name 13 innings now. On Day 1, he was done by a brilliant delivery by Mark Wood. The England pacer cut Gill in half with a sharp in-dipper and then got the next delivery to hold its line and find the outside edge. Gill was out for a duck - his fourth against England.

India vs England Live Score 3rd Test Day 1

This happened after Wood had already nicked off Yashasvi Jaiswal (10), India's best player in the series. Rajat Patidar too didn't last long. He was out to a soft dismissal when left-arm spinner Tom Hartley got one to slightly stop on the surface. After winning the toss and opting to bat on the best batting surface of this series so far, India were tottering at 33/3.

A few minutes later, Pujara walked in at the outdoor nets. He was preparing for Saurashtra's next Ranji Trophy game against Manipur set to take place at the C ground of the newly-named Niranjan Shah Cricket Stadium on Friday.

At a time when the BCCI secretary Jay Shah has had to come out in the open to urge centrally contracted players to make themselves available for domestic red-ball cricket, Pujara continues to ply his trade in the Ranji Trophy without much of a fuss.

And he has been in top form too. Pujara has notched up 673 runs in just 10 innings - the fourth most in this season - at an average of 74.77. He has hit two centuries including a big double hundred.

In the absence of Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer dropped due to an indifferent form, one got the feeling that Pujara was in with a good chance to make another comeback to the Test side. But the selectors decided to go with youngsters Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal.

Meanwhile, Jadeja and Rohit did a tremendous job in getting India back in the contest with an unbroken 152-run stand for the fourth wicket. India went to Tea at 185/3 with Rohit nearing his 11th Test century and Jadeja (68) looking solid.

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