Cheteshwar Pujara and India showed that they were ready for a fight as they played their hearts out on Day 3 of the third Test in Ranchi. Pujara’s unbeaten 130 helped India finish the day at 360/6 to cut Australia’s first innings lead to just 91 runs as the game now hangs delicately in the balance.
The ‘New Wall’ stands tall:-
Ever since making his Test debut for India, Cheteshwar Pujara has always drawn comparisons to the legendary Rahul Dravid, owing to his ability of bat for long periods. Against Australia, yet again, Pujara reiterated that with another defiant knock, in the first innings of the Ranchi Test.
Pujara walked in to bat at the beginning of the day’s play and has managed to remain unbeaten until the end of the third day’s play while completing his 11th Test century along the way. While Pujara hasn’t had the best of support from his teammates in terms of partnerships, he has taken on the responsibility of getting India as close as possible, to the Australian first innings total.
Another feature of Pujara’s batting today was the way he paced his innings. While he started off cautiously, he began to cut loose as the day progressed and certainly took the run-rate a notch higher in the second session.
Pat Cummins justifies his selection:-
Although the selection of Pat Cummins to replace injured Mitchell Starc ahead of Jackson Bird for the ongoing Test divided opinion in Australia, his performance with the ball in the first innings has certainly put an end to any apprehensions that the fans would have had.
Cummins was brought into the side as a strike bowler and he has certainly done what was asked of him. With Steve Smith handing the ball to Cummins everytime Australia needed to break an Indian partnership, the youngster didn’t let his captain down. Having picked up four Indian wickets already, Cummins is almost certain to pick up a fifer with the Indian tailenders yet to bat.
Cummins’ biggest scalp so far, has been that of Indian skipper Virat Kohli. Cummins bowled a driveable delivery to the Indian captain, inviting him forward, but the ball caught the edge of the bat before making its way right into the hands of Steve Smith in the slip cordon. Kohli was greeted with an unpleasant gesture from Aussie skipper Steve Smith, who mocked Kohli’s shoulder injury.
Kohli’s woes with the bat continue:-
Although the third day started with good news for the Indian fans when they saw Virat Kohli padded up and ready to come out and bat, the joy was short-lived. Though Kohli came into bat at after Murali Vijay’s dismissal, Kohli once again struggled to get going in this series.
As good a player as Kohli is, he does take awhile to settle into his game at the start of his innings. The Australians seem to have figured this out with Smith introducing Cummins into the attack, after taking the second new ball. The move paid dividends as Cummins dismissed the Indian skipper soon after.
Though Kohli was in ominous form going into the current series, he is yet to find his form, so far. While this innings could be ignored due to his shoulder injury, if he doesn’t rediscover his touch soon, he might be in for some serious questioning.
A fine balance:-
Coming to the end of the day’s play, the Test Match seems to be wonderfully balanced. With two days left to play India are in a good position to take the lead tomorrow with the settled pair of Pujara and Saha at the crease. With the kind of spin power that India have at their disposal, they might still have a chance of winning the Test.
Australia, on the other hand, would like to knock out the remainder of the Indian innings tomorrow morning and possibly bat the remaining two sessions to set a target for the Indians to chase on the final day. Whichever way you look at it, both teams have all to play for on Day 4 in Ranchi.