PUJARA KEY AS INDIA HOLD GROUND AGAINST AUSTRALIA
The only glimmer of hope for Australians that has still kept them in competition was the priced wicket of skipper Virat Kohli (34) who was caught at forward short leg.
Long being touted as the replacement of Rahul Dravid after he quit international cricket in 2012, Cheteshwar Pujara has been a treat to watch for the last three days, thanks to his impeccable display of technical prowess, grit and patience, which has put India in the saddle and the team can now fancy their chances in the first Test in Adelaide on Day 3. India is 151 for the loss of three wickets in second innings and the visitors now lead by 166 runs.
A score of 123 in the first innings and 40 in the second on Saturday, Pujara has looked rock solid in his defense throughout. Although he survived twice after been given out through reviews, there was no hint of fatigue, instead he oozed confidence in his shot selection.
He was first caught behind off Nathan Lyon but the review showed no contact between bat and ball. Lady luck was smiling on him again when he got another reprieve through DRS after being adjudged lbw off Lyon even as the batsman looked determined to provide his team with a good lead. At close of play, Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (1) were on the crease.
The only glimmer of hope for Australians that has still kept them in competition was the priced wicket of skipper Virat Kohli (34) who was caught at forward short leg to Lyon as the spinner consistently bowled on the rough patches created by Mitchell Starc and the Indian bowlers.
Much to the relief of the fans, the openers dug in this time and avoided early feasting on the length balls, giving the team much-needed start in the process. A rare 63 run opening stand be- tween them laid the foundation of a good lead against Australia and more importantly it did not expose Pujara and Kohli to the new ball. Subsequently, Kohli-Pujara duo provided India with perhaps the most important partnership of 71 for the third wicket, taking the lead further ahead.
Meanwhile, Kohli achieved another feat as he became only fourth Indian batsman after Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman to reach 1,000 runs against Australia in Test cricket.
Despite providing with a healthy start, it looks almost certain that, if fit, young Prithvi Shaw will take place of one of the openers in the second Test match. The openers took their time, acclimatising to the conditions and pitch before K.L. Rahul went all guns, throwing the kitchen sink with flurry of boundaries in a short time.
A glorious six over covers off Pat Cummins took many by surprise but it didn’t took much time for Kangaroos to ward off Rahul’s initial flush of excitement as he was caught behind while trying to go hard at the ball. He fell on 44. His partner Murali Vijay (18) lost his wicket in similar fashion in the slips to Peter Handscomb.
The initial part of the day was marred by rains with Australia starting to their overnight score of 191-7 only to survive for another 44 runs. Eyeing a century, Travis Head (72) could only add 11 runs to his score and fell to Mohammed Shami.
Although Lyon (24) stitched a crucial partnership with Head owing to the struggles of Indian fast bowlers, Ishant Sharma and Jaspreet Bumrah, who bowled a bit short to the tail-enders. The other batsmen could not provide much cushion to Lyon with Starc scoring 15 runs and Josh Hazlewood getting out on a duck.
An interesting fourth day is on the cards as India will look to further consolidate their lead. Much will depend on Pujara, Rahane and Rohit Sharma on how they go about their innings while Australia will hope to clobber down the Indian battling line-up as soon as possible if they are to win the match.