New Delhi: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And the Indian duo of Cheteshwar Pujara (202) and Wriddhiman Saha (117) batted out of their skins to help the hosts grab the advantage on the fourth day of the third Test between India and Australia at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi on Sunday.
Needing 153 to make India bat again, David Warner and Matt Renshaw were welcomed to the crease by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. And Warner decided to take the attack to the Indian spinners from the word go. Seeing the ball turn viciously off the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump, Warner felt it was important to hit out of the situation.
But his stay was cut short when Jadeja got one to turn viciously from the turn to break Warner’s defence and disturb the timber. There was no stopping Jadeja’s celebration as skipper Virat Kohli joined him. But Jadeja wasn’t done yet as he also removed the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (2) at the stroke of stumps.
Even though there wasn’t any demon in the wicket to start the day, it wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on. The batsmen needed to grind it out and flair was a strict no-no. And it was important that the last recognised Indian batting pair first guide the hosts past Australia’s first innings score of 451 and then take the attack to the opposition to ensure they have a healthy lead going into the last day of the match. And that is exactly what they did.
Starting the day on 360/6, still trailing by 91, the duo first eclipsed Australia’s first innings total and then tightened the screws on the visiting bowlers. The two put on 199 for the seventh wicket as Pujara went on to score his third double century and Saha registered his third century in Indian colours.
While Saha looked to play the aggressor’s role, Pujara at times looked happy to play second fiddle and rotate the strike. Pujara’s innings was a fine example of discipline and application as he refused to play a single false shot.
The incident unfolded when Pujara, who was batting on 142, attempted to play a hook off Josh Hazlewood, but missed the ball by quite a distance. The ball went into the gloves of wicket keeper Matthew Wade and after a weak appeal from the Australian pacer, umpire Gaffaney started to raise his finger, only to go ahead and scratch his head.
Saha on the other hand chanced his arm against the spinners before settling down to play some vintage drives off the pacers — Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. In fact, having failed to pick a wicket in the first session, Steven Smith and his boys came out blazing with the third new ball. But Saha welcomed Cummins to the bowling crease with a beautiful cover drive. That was enough to set the motion in the second session of the day.
In the post-lunch session again, it was Saha who played the aggressor’s role as Pujara was happy to play second fiddle. The Australian bowlers must be credited for trying their best. They bowled a good line and kept pressing for wickets. But Pujara and Saha looked in sublime touch as nothing seemed to perturb them.
It finally took a false shot from Pujara after scoring his double hundred to break the partnership one short of a 200-run stand. Lyon bowled it short and in an effort to up the ante, Pujara looked to pull that one over Glenn Maxwell at mid-wicket. But the ball stopped on him and he ended up giving an easy catch to Maxwell.
Saha too departed three overs later, again trying to score some quick runs. This time, Steve O’ Keefe was the beneficiary having bowled his heart out. Saha looked to go inside-out over covers, but failed to get the required elevation. The ball landed in Maxwell’s hand and he didn’t make any mistake.
With the score reading 541/8, Jadeja had the license to go for the kill and he did just that with Umesh Yadav for company. While Umesh held one end up, Jadeja launched into the Aussie bowlers. The two put on 54 for the ninth wicket with Umesh adding just 16. Smith had frustration writ large on his face as Jadeja went hammer and tongs.
Umesh was finally dismissed trying to hit O’ Keefe over the mid-off fielder. He too failed to get the elevation and ended up hitting it straight to Warner. With Umesh gone, Jadeja finally reached his fifty with Ishant for company. And with the team score reaching 603/9, with Jadeja on 54, Kohli called the boys in.