India firmly in the driver's seat
By Krunal Gandhi, MyCricketHighlights Cricket Writer
3rd Test: India vs Australia at JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi, Mar 16 - Mar 20, 2017, Cricket Highlights
Another thrilling day of Test cricket unfolded at the JSCA stadium in Ranchi, where India – or should I say, Pujara, Saha and Jadeja – dominated the proceedings and have got Australia on the ropes going into the final day.
When India started the day, they were still 91 runs behind Australia’s total and their first target was to get past that. Guess what, they not only surpassed that, but also got a substantial lead of 152 runs. And the credit for this goes to two batsmen, who were the standout performers in India’s innings.
It was yesterday’s unbeaten pair of Pujara and Saha, who extended their small little partnership of 32 runs and converted into a mammoth 199-run stand for the 7th wicket. Today, the two batted for almost 310 minutes, as they wore down the Australian bowling attack by some resolute batting display.
Let’s talk about Pujara first. Now, we all know that this man loves to play the long innings and is often compared with Rahul Dravid for his ability to play the marathon knocks, which ‘The Wall’ used to play. Although Pujara is not as elegant as Dravid was, the concentration and the determination with which he bats is as similar to that of Dravid. He also likes to grind the opposition bowlers’ down and then pounce upon them like a hungry predator.
This knock of Pujara was certainly one of his best and it was also a special one, as he broke the record of his idol (Dravid) for the most no. of deliveries faced by an Indian in an innings. The record now belongs to the man from Saurashtra, who played 525 deliveries to score his 202.
But all this could not have been possible if Pujara hadn’t found an able partner, in Wriddhiman Saha, at the other end. The Indian wicket-keeper has already shown his glimpses of brilliance, behind the stumps, in this series, but today he showed that he is an equally good batsman. By scoring a century, he also made a strong statement to Virat and the Team management that he deserves to bat up the order, ahead of Ashwin. More than the hundred, it was the patience and the commitment - to hold his ground firm and support Pujara - which he showed was pleasing to see.
Talking about the visitors, well, it was a forgettable day for them. On a hot and humid day, their bowlers had to toil hard, throughout the day, in need of a breakthrough. Much to their disappointment, they went wicketless for the entire two sessions.
It wasn’t the case, where they bowled badly and didn’t create any opportunities. In fact, they bowled exceedingly well but were unlucky to not pick up a wicket or two in the morning session. While batting on 150, Pujara had edged one delivery on the bowling of O’Keefe, but to Pujara’s fortune, it ricocheted off Matthew Wade’s pad and rolled away down to the third man. A few overs later, the left-arm spinner created another chance, but it also went down begging as Wade dropped a simple catch of Saha. You have got to feel for the bowler, who bowled really well in trying conditions, but only had one wicket to show up for his efforts (till Tea). By bowling 77 overs, O’Keefe also registered an uncanny record for bowling the second most number of overs in an innings in India.
Neither the reviews nor the new ball, nothing helped Australia in breaking the partnership, which also turned out to be the record partnership for the 7th wicket for India vs Australia.
Like all good things come to an end, the fantastic knock from Pujara also came to an end. The wicket was not taken by Lyon, but was gifted to him, as the double-centurion played a tired shot and gave a simple catch to mid-wicket. It was also the first wicket taken by the off-spinner after going wicketless for 75.2 overs (counting the 33 that he bowled in Bengaluru’s 2nd innings).
In trying to up the ante, Saha also lost his wicket and was out for 117. However, the Indian team was not done yet. They wanted to keep the visitors out in the field for some more time. And out came Jaddu with his ferocious blade (or Sword, as he would like to use it) and played a quick-fire knock (54 off just 55 balls) to help India extend their lead past the 150 mark. The declaration finally came with India piling on a colossal total of 603 on the board.
With only 8 overs left in the day, the job of the Australian openers was to see off the tricky period without losing a wicket. But to add to their misery, they not only lost the wicket of David Warner, but also that of the night watchman, Lyon, before the close of play. Jadeja accounted for both the wickets, as he got both the batsmen cleaned up with two absolute peach of deliveries.
Australia still trail by 129 runs and with all that rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump, it would be interesting to see how they will tackle the Indian spin-duo, especially Jadeja.