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Posted at: Mar 19, 2017, 2:12 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2017, 2:12 AM (IST)

Pujara battles on

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

Ranchi, March 18

The weekend crowd had come to watch Virat Kohli punish Australia with his batting for their captain’s ‘Cheatgate’ episode. Instead, they were treated to a masterclass by Cheteshwar Pujara, who battled through the third day even as other key batsmen fell to soft dismissals. 

Led by pacer Pat Cummins, the Australian bowlers managed to put some life in the slow wicket, which is still good to bat on. Cummins put up a spirited performance with his pace and well-directed bouncers, picking up the prized scalps of Kohli (6) and Ajinkya Rahane (14).

The battle of attrition between bat and ball has left the third Test delicately poised. At stumps on the third day, India were 360/6, still 91 runs behind Australia’s 451. India’s hopes rest with Pujara, batting on 130. 

Tense moments

The series has been contested fiercely, and there has been some bad blood. Today, Glenn Maxwell seemed to mock Kohli’s shoulder injury when he clutched his own shoulder after chasing and stopping a ball before the boundary. Next ball, Kohli — who had been off the field for close to two days after suffering his shoulder injury on Day 1 — gave a catch to Smith at second slip, sending the Australians into wild celebrations. 

It was an anti-climactic moment, for the stage was set for Kohli to answer Smith’s monumental 178 in the same coin; however, Kohli’s fifth failure in fifth innings left everyone in the stadium heartbroken.

But Pujara thwarted the Australian bowling for three sessions with his resolute batting. Pujara’s powerful strokes in the midwicket region and the drives on both sides of the wicket were the highlight of his 11th Test century. His 328-ball inning ensured India’s challenge did not fizzle out early. 

Three phases

There were three facets to Pujara’s innings. He played a defensive game in the morning session, giving Murali Vijay (82) the opportunity to score; he then attacked the second new ball to reach his hundred in quick time; then he went into a shell, finding it difficult to rotate the strike in the company of the lower order. His first 50 came off 155 balls, the second off only 59, and he’s made only 30 off 114 balls after reaching his 100. Vijay, who started the day on 42, got lucky when he edged Nathan Lyon to his pad and was caught. The umpire turned the appeal down, but Australia had no DRS reviews left. Vijay added 40 to his total today before he attempted a mindless stroke off O’Keefe in the last over before lunch, missed the ball and was stumped.

Soft dismissals

Rahane too threw away his wicket, trying a ramp shot off Cummins. Kohli, Karun Nair (23) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3) were undone by some good bowling by Cummins and Josh Hazelwood. Kohli went for an aggressive off-drive and was caught by Smith, and Ashwin was out trying to fend off a bouncer. Nair was beaten by Hazelwood’s speed and reverse swing.  Cummins and Hazlewood generated substantial pace and bounce from the slow surface, and India could manage only 57 runs in 31 overs in the final session. A hard day for Indian batsmen, and another hard day beckons.

Most Test runs in a season in India 

1247 V Kohli (2016/17)

1109 C Pujara (2016/17)

1105 V Sehwag (2004/05)

1027 S Gavaskar (1979/80)

7 Number of first class centuries Pujara has scored this season. Only VVS Laxman has more in a season — eight tons in 1999-2000. Four of these tons have come in Tests, and three in domestic first class games

Number of century partnerships between Pujara and Murali Vijay this season. It's the second most in a season — Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting shared seven century stands in 2005-06 

Skipper Virat Kohli endured fifth consecutive failure of the series. He has so far scored just 46 runs at an average of 9.20

How Pujara paced his knock: First 120 balls: 28 runs (RR: 1.39); next 100 balls: 77 runs (RR: 4.62), next 108 balls: 25 runs (RR: 1.38)

Scoreboard

Australia 1st innings 451

India 1st innings

L Rahul c Wade b Cummins 67

M Vijay st Wade b O'Keefe 82

C Pujara not out 130

V Kohli c Smith b Cummins 6

A Rahane c Wade b Cummins 14

K Nair b Hazlewood 23

R Ashwin c Wade b Cummins 3

W Saha not out 18

Extras: (B-14, LB-3) 17

Total: (For 6 wkts; 130 overs) 360

FOW: 1-91, 2-193, 3-225, 4-276, 5-320, 6-328

Bowling

Josh Hazlewood 31-9-66-1

Pat Cummins 25-8-59-4

Steve O'Keefe 43-11-117-1

Nathan Lyon 29-2-97-0

Glenn Maxwell 2-0-4-0

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