New Delhi: After two enthralling Test matches in Pune and Bengaluru, the ongoing third Test between India and Australia is definitely not the best advertisement for the longest format of the game, but then, sometimes it is more about grinding it out for the team’s cause than playing to the galleries. And that is exactly what Cheteshwar Pujara did on Saturday as he registered his 11th Test century to bring India closer to Australia’s first innings score of 451.
Pujara has this home season shown what he is capable of, be it steadying the ship or playing the aggressor’s role. While he is still some distance away from being the rightful owner of Rahul Dravid’s boots, he has scored a mammoth 1914 runs this first-class season in 16 games at an average of 85.00 with seven 100s and nine 50s. And on Saturday he was once again on the money.
At stumps, India’s score read 360 for 6, still trailing by 91 runs, with Pujara (130) and Wriddhiman Saha (18) at the crease. Even though the wicket at the JSCA Stadium has no demons in it, a disciplined and sometimes negative bowling from the Aussies saw the Indian batsmen struggle to score runs at ease.
Every lapse in concentration from the Indian batsmen saw the Australian bowlers pick a wicket. Be it Murali Vijay (82), Virat Kohli (6), Ajinkya Rahane (14) or Karun Nair (23), they were all dismissed after settling down. And the balls that got these batsmen were no jaffas, but a clear case of the batsmen taking it to easy after doing the hard yards.
If a rush-of-blood saw Vijay step out of the crease and miss Steve O’ Keefe’s delivery to get stumped on the stroke of lunch, Kohli played an unusually subdued knock where he didn’t even run the ‘now synonymous’ singles in the initial stages to get the scoreboard ticking. And finally when he did get out to Pat Cummins, it was a half-volley which Kohli drove from the crease with the foot going nowhere near the pitch of the ball.
It was similar with Rahane who looked very comfortable in the middle before he felt the need to upper-cut Cummins over the slip-cordon, only to edge the bowler to Wade. In case of Nair, he looked in complete control till an ambitious drive from the middle-order bat saw Josh Hazlewood’s reverse swinging delivery sneak in through the gap in bat and pad to disturb the timber.
Only Ashwin can claim that he got a beauty from Cummins that reared up from the short of a good length spot to kiss the batsman’s gloves and land in the safe hands of Wade. While the umpire said no, DRS helped Smith and his boys get the decision in their favour.
But Pujara looked like in a zone of his own as he kept playing at his own sweet pace. He did attack every time there was a bad delivery, but no over attacking from the India No.3.
More than the game, it was the banter between the two teams that kept the fans engrossed. While it was Kohli first who rushed out to the balcony and started clapping as Smith decided to use up the last review and the decision went against the visitors, Glenn Maxwell got right back at the India skipper when the former tumbled in the boundary trying to save a boundary.
Getting up having saved the boundary, Maxwell was seen holding his shoulder in the same fashion as Kohli did when he hurt his shoulder during the opening day’s play on Thursday.
It also looked at one point that Smith was holding his shoulder after taking a sharp catch at second slip to dismiss Kohli off Cummins, but replays later showed that it was Peter Handscomb’s palm which was on Smith’s shoulder and the skipper wasn’t being cheeky.