Cheteshwar Pujara was once again the star of India’s batting effort as the visitors moved into a strong position against Australia on the third day of the first Test in Adelaide.
At stumps, India were 151 for 3 with a lead of 166.
It was another day of high attrition cricket at the Adelaide Oval. Australia resumed at 101 for 7 on Saturday and the onus was on Travis Head and Mitchell Starc to take a lead after India had folded for 250 in their first innings. But Mohammed Shani picked two wickets and Jasprit Bumrah pocketed one as Australia were bowled out for 235 – India had a slender 15-run lead.
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All eyes were on India’s batsmen now. Sunil Gavaskar has slammed their approach in the first innings and it remained to be seen if KL Rahul and Murali Vijay had learnt anything from Pujara, who struck 123 on Thursday to keep India in the game.
As it turned out, Rahul and Vijay batted well, more so the former. Rahul scored a quick 44 and added 63 for the first wicket with Vijay.
Vijay’s dismissal brought Pujara to the crease but in different circumstances. There was a nice lead building up and he had the confidence of a brilliant hundred in the first innings.
KL Rahul looked set for a big score but another lose shot cut short a good innings. He fell to Josh Hazelwood which meant it was time for the big fish.
Virat Kohli arrived at the crease to booing from sections of the Adelaide crows. But the India captain is admittedly a much changed man and his sole focus was on stretching the lead. He batted with determination and patience against a good bowling attack.
In the course of his innings, Kohli went past 1000 runs in Tests in Australia. At the other end, Pujara outscored him but Kohli was in a different zone.
As the lead first went past 100 and then 150, Kohli and Pujara were looking increasingly confident.
At one point, Tim Paine gathered his fast bowlers to revisit their tactics against the India pair but Pujara and Kohli proved to be immovable. It eventually tool a superb delivery from Nathan Lyon to get rid of Kohli towards the end of the day.
Australia were understandably pumped as Kohli walked off. Akinkya Rahane, who has been off colour for some time, joined Pujara at the crease and saw off the last few overs without any further damage to India.
Play extended well beyond normal closing time due to rain in the morning. India, though, should be happy with the position they are in. Another 100 runs or more on the fourth day and this game could be beyond Australia.
However, the hosts will be pleased with Kohli’s wicket at a crucial juncture. A lot now depends on Pujara and Rahane who will have to start afresh in the morning.
India have plenty of batting left: Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and R Ashwin will be expected to play crucial roles with the bat on Sunday.
Australia will hope for a few quick wickets on Day 4 and claw back in the game.
The Adelaide Test is still wide open and it is set set up for an exciting finish.