MELBOURNE, December 27: Cheteshwar Pujara produced yet another classy hundred and stitched a 170-run stand with captain Virat Kohli (82) to put India in command against Australia on the second day of the third Test on Thursday.
Pujara hit his second century of the series, a dogged but faultless 106 off 319 balls, to ensure that India consolidated the good start of the first day Wednesday. It was though his slowest hundred in Test cricket yet.
Kohli, who contributed a significant 82 off 204 balls, made a surprising declaration and finished India’s first innings at 443 for 7.
Rohit Sharma ended on 63 not out off 114 balls, inclusive of five fours, while Pat Cummins was the pick of the Australian bowlers, taking 3/72 in a back-breaking effort of 34 overs.
At stumps, Australia were placed at 8 for no loss from 6 overs with openers Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris were both unbeaten on 3 and 5 respectively. India lead by 435 runs.
Post tea, it was a comedy of fielding errors from Australia as they missed three easy chances, all of Nathan Lyon (1/110) in what proved to be a frustrating 48 overs from him.
First, in the 147th over, substitute fielder Peter Siddle put down Rohit (on 15 then) at backward square leg as the batsman played a wild sweep. A ball later, Ajinkya Rahane (34) was lucky when on 32 as Travis Head was caught napping at short leg when the ball sailed past him.
Rahane got unlucky shortly afterwards though as one delivery from Lyon kept too low and he was plumb lbw.
Rishabh Pant (39) played an uncharacteristic defensive innings, and the only aerial stroke he played was in the 159th over off Lyon when Cummins spilled the chance at long on. He was on 15 then.
Australia took the third new ball in the 167th over and it worked as Pant looped up a catch to Usman Khawaja behind the wickets off Mitchell Starc (2/87).
The accelerating burst before the declaration never came as skipper Kohli called the batsmen in when Ravindra Jadeja (4) was caught behind off Josh Hazlewood (1/86).
Rahane and Rohit took India to 346/4 at tea after Australia removed both Pujara and Kohli in the space of four overs.
Post lunch, Kohli-Pujara took their third-wicket partnership to 170 runs before the game turned.
The Indian skipper took medication for some back issue and then stepped through the gears as he brought out two pulls against Mitchell Starc (1/68) in the 123rd over. He pressed on the accelerator a tad too much, and cut straight to third man, much to the bowler’s delight. (PTI)